The council is made up primarily of individuals who have lived experience with mental health diagnoses, extreme states and/or trauma who live and/or work in our home region. GCOW members gather every month to represent each county of Western Mass and hold the ‘big picture’ of the Wildflower Alliance’s development, helping to shape its direction and growth.
All GCOW meetings are open to anyone from the community who themselves has personally experienced those sorts of life-interrupting challenges described in our mission statement, or who is a friend, family member or ally to the Wildflower Alliance and our work, although only Council Delegates are able to participate in any formal votes.
Meetings generally take place at the Holyoke Center on the first Monday of each month from 12:30pm to 2pm. (The meeting automatically moves to the 2nd Monday of the month in the event of a holiday or snow day on the first.) Confirmed dates for each GCOW meeting are listed in the monthly calendar.
American Sign Language interpreters can be scheduled upon request by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Current Council Delegates
GCOW is in need of new Council Delegates!
It is GCOW’s goal to have a minimum of two and up to four Council Delegates representing each county of Western Mass. Council Delegates are individuals who identify as having first-hand experience (with psychiatric diagnosis, trauma, homelessness, problems with substances, etc.) and who are able to commit to attending GCOW meetings on a monthly basis to represent their county and have a voice in how the RLC moves forward. When a formal vote is needed to solidify GCOW’s recommendations to the RLC, Council Delegates are also the only ones able to vote.
Council Delegates generally make a commitment of one year beginning in September and ending in August. (New members are accepted throughout the year based on vacancies and will be asked to commit to however much of the year is remaining up to August.)
If you are interested in applying to be a Council Delegate, please complete the application below or send an inquiry to email@example.com or call (413) 539-5941 ext. 203.
GCOW formed in the summer of 2005 as an independent body made up exclusively of individuals with first-hand experience within the mental health system. At that time – based on years of advocacy from individuals with psychiatric histories – the Department of Mental Health (DMH) was giving serious consideration to funding the formation of peer-run communities. The Transformation Center encouraged and supported GCOW to form in Western Mass to ensure that people with lived experience would have a strong voice in how those peer-run communities came together.
GCOW gained momentum quickly, often having as many as 30 or 40 individuals in attendance at their meetings. They took time to develop vision, draft what are now the Wildflower Alliance’s Defining Principles and interview organizations with whom to partner when DMH was ready to accept proposals.
In the fall of 2006, after interviewing four candidates, GCOW selected The Western Mass Training Consortium as their partnering agency. Together, they responded to DMH’s request for proposals for the creation of the first Recovery Learning Communities that same winter, with GCOW always in the lead of the visioning process.
When the Recovery Learning Community grant for Western Mass was officially awarded to The Consortium in May of 2007, GCOW transitioned into its current role as the advisory board to the RLC.
This grassroots process embodied by the GCOW is unique and core to the roots the Wildflower Alliance’s mission and true purpose.
We would like to thank our founding members of GCOW for all their work and for helping us make history! Founding GCOW members included:
Cheryl Stevens, Shelly Bowen (in whose honor the Bowen Resource Center is now named), Patrick Austin, Linda Rost, Margo McMahon, Gayle Kushner, Karran Larson, John Paul Whiting, Deborah Duncan, Karen Lowe, Marcia Webster, Mary Rives, Margaret Osei, June Kaz, Carol Ritter, Bonnie Jones, Chaya Grossberg, Janice Sorensen, Oryx Cohen and many others who took part in all the hard work and joys of building the foundation upon which the WMass RLC and Wildflower Alliance have grown.
Founding members of GCOW also included current Wildflower Alliance Director, Sera Davidow.