Submitted by admin on Wed, 01/01/2025 - 01:00
Check out the Freedom Center video!
Freedom Center is transforming! After 10+ years of community support, education, and human rights activism, Freedom Center is in a new phase.
Our community has grown and the movement has become more successful, and so the Freedom Center has changed, and become more of a spirit and vision than an on-the-ground organization. Activities that do happen are more informal and small scale these days, coming and going as people pick up initiative in Northampton and beyond. As organizer Dave Burns used to say "People ask me where is the Freedom Center. And I tell them, it's here, right now, you and I talking and connecting." We encourage people who want to network with Freedom Center to find folks face to face in the Northampton area community. A great way to start is to connect with peer and recovery resources in the area in general, and we strongly encourage you to check out the Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community.
Everyone involved with us over the years is excited about the transformations in Western Massachusetts since we began. It's incredible how the region has changed - when we first began the general attitude was "who are these crazy people?" and the local newspaper published misinformation about us. Then just a few years later, the Mayor of Northampton came to our anniversary party to congratulate us on our work, and the local Hampshire Gazette ran a newspaper editorial supporting us. Freedom Center is the oldest peer run organization in the Pioneer Valley and one of the first in Western Massachusetts. We did this work without paid staff, bringing together dozens of volunteers who dedicated thousands of volunteer hours to the vision of peer support in Western Massachusetts. Freedom Center has been recognized for this work internationally, including awards from Smith and Mt. Holyoke colleges, Stavros Center for Independent Living in Amherst, and Forbes magazine. Freedom Center's work is described in the video we produced in 2007, http://vimeo.com/2379189#, and in Professor Gail Hornstein's excellent book Agnes' Jacket. Freedom Center was the first organization to bring peer-run services to the region; first to offer holistic wellness programs in mental health; first to bring coming off medications into open discussion; the first to go on the radio; first free yoga class, first to invite Robert Whitaker and many others, one of the first to organize against psychiatric abuse -- with many groundbreaking innovations before the term "peer movement" was even in use, Freedom Center truly led the way in the Pioneer Valley and made a big impact nationally and even internationally.
Today state funding for peer run services is a reality in Massachusetts because of many years' pressure from many activists -- including pressure from the Freedom Center. Freedom Center initiated and proved the effectiveness of many of the kinds of programs now widely adopted with state funding. Freedom Center's years of work contributed to the advocacy pressure on the State of Massachusetts to stop dragging its feet and start funding peer programs statewide. This success of the peer movement meant that many of the innovations and vision of Freedom Center now have state financial and institutional support. There's a new awareness of our issues like never before, and while there is still is a great need for activism unhindered by the political constraints of government funding (such as the cross-issue anti-poverty work Freedom Center did), the regional advances in peer run services are huge.
Many of our efforts are now underway through the resources and funding of new organizations, and Freedom Center organizers became very involved with the creation of the new Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community (WMRLC), the Afiya peer-run hospital alternative respite, and national organizing. Many volunteers working with Freedom Center moved over over to WMRLC, and the WMRLC carried forward experience, skills, networking, community awareness and educational work that Freedom Center had done previously. Oryx was very involved with founding Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community and became Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community's first co-Director. Oryx now works as a Director of the National Empowerment Center as well as producing the new film Healing Voices, and Will Hall works as a trainer, consultant, and therapist, as well as continuing his radio and community development work. Lee Entel is now an acupuncturist in Colorado, Caty Simon is a sex worker, write, and poverty rights activist, Cheryl Alexander is a local therapist, and Chaya Grossberg is a counselor and advocate. Other organizers from the early days of Freedom Center continue work to transform the mental health system. We strongly encourage people interested in the work of Freedom Center in the area to get involved with the Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community: www.westernmassrlc.org
Freedom Center and Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community worked together closely as the Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community got off the ground. We continued to co-sponsor many groups and events and collaborate on many levels, with many organizers paid at WMRLC also doing volunteer work with FC -- which was a great cross-fertilization. The state funders of the peer movement were not so supportive, however. Freedom Center was consistently denied funding through state mental health sources, though as we got funding through city Housing and Urban Development anti-poverty initiatives. (Freedom Center was even harassed at one point when the state monitored email records of a state employee who was also a Freedom Center activist, in an attempt to discourage their continued off-hours volunteering with Freedom Center.)>/p>
So as "peer" programs grow in the state, there is a struggle to keep the human rights and activist values and vision of Freedom Center and Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community alive in the face of co-optation and silencing dynamics shaped by funding sources. While the community has been enormously supportive of Freedom Center, the state, it would seem, would prefer that Freedom Center just fade away. But Freedom Center has always been above all a spirit and a vision, and that spirit and vision will always be alive and will always move forward.
To support this vision and carry the work to the future, this website is a wealth of information and links to further Western Massachusetts resources, as well as about Freedom Center's rich history of activism, community events, and mutual support. So please bear with anything outdated as you use this as a jumping off place to getting involved with the broader movement.
-- Will Hall
Submitted by shana on Sun, 09/21/2014 - 16:32
Submitted by shana on Wed, 09/03/2014 - 19:31
Connect with The Freedom Center on social media!
Submitted by admin on Sun, 08/11/2013 - 00:12
Icarus and Freedom Center co-sponsor a radio show hosted by Will Hall on all things madness-related, syndicated through the Pacifica community radio network and broadcast on WXOJ-LPFM in Northampton Massachusetts Weekly Tuesdays at 4 pm on Valley Free Radio WXOJ-LP, 103.3 FM. as well as on KBOO in Oregon and other stations around the country.
Submitted by will on Fri, 10/19/2012 - 11:35
Local protest against mental health profiling Monday 1/21/12 in Northampton, MA
In the days since the Newtown school shooting, the media and politicians of all stripes have used those diagnosed with mental illness as a scapegoat. On the federal level, the White House has released a plan "to reduce gun violence" that includes $55 million in funding for teachers and schools, working with law enforcement, to "detect and respond to mental illness in children and young adults"--i.e. to diagnose them with stigmatizing, and potentially criminalizing, mental illness labels, despite the fact that statistical research shows there is no significant link between mental illness and violence.
Submitted by admin on Wed, 09/12/2012 - 05:51
The HEALING VOICES KickStarter campaign is LIVE. Our goal is to raise $15,000 by Friday October 19th. KickStarter campaigns are all or nothing, so please spread the word and support this important project. The page includes a new promo for the film. Check out our rewards and get involved today! UPDATE: Campaign Successful!UPDATE - Madness Radio also succeeded in its recent Kickstarter campaign!
Submitted by jiro on Thu, 06/21/2012 - 04:02
The Freedom Center is experiencing paradoxical effects of our success! As peer run services spread in Western Massachusetts, organizers, resources, and support are now flowing to state funded agencies and initiatives across the area, especially the Recovery Learning Community. Area mental health providers are now embracing principles of peer-run services, peer support, and wellness alternatives. As a result of things shifting, organizers still focused on Freedom Center are seeking to obtain enough funding and volunteer support to keep Freedom Center resources active within the community. We welcome the volunteer support of local community members, as well as the financial support and wisdom of those who live outside the Pioneer Valley.
Submitted by admin on Sun, 06/12/2011 - 19:59
Freedom Center is going strong!
Submitted by admin on Thu, 02/24/2011 - 17:31
Submitted by admin on Thu, 02/24/2011 - 17:28
Submitted by admin on Thu, 02/24/2011 - 17:27
Submitted by admin on Wed, 01/05/2011 - 14:04
Submitted by admin on Tue, 12/21/2010 - 02:14
MEMORIAL-- Tuesday Dec 28 at 2 pm in Williamstown at the First Congregational Church, in the chapel downstairs
Watch the video Dave's sister Mecca made here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=mB_I0WwsYG8
Freedom Center celebrates our memories of Dave Burns, one of the original Freedom Center organizers. Dave's activism led to important reforms in the Northampton area mental health system, by exposing and denouncing abuses and pressing for improved treatment. He was a key organizer in local group homes and among mental health consumers in Northampton, who he met on the streets and in low income residences. Dave was also an important link to movement history, because he lived in RD Laing's therapeutic communities in London. He was a great guy and his spirit is very much alive in the work of the Freedom Center.
Will Hall writes, "Dave was a deeply creative and spiritual person who turned his own emotional and psychological struggles into a unique positive stance and attitude towards life. He was one of the founding organizers of Freedom Center and led the shaping of Freedom Center's first successful activist campaign. Dave was a very dear and beloved friend, very bright, very funny, and lived a way of seeing the world that was all his own. He will be deeply missed."
Listen to a great interview with Dave here: http://www.freedom-center.org/radio/10-06DavidBurns.mp3
Submitted by admin on Sat, 10/09/2010 - 21:20
Recovery Learning Community is sponsoring a "Starting Hearing Voices Groups" training with Oryx Cohen, Gail Hornstein, Ron Coleman (UK Hearing Voices Network) and Paul Baker (UK Hearing Voices Network). This is a great opportunity to learn about how to create a hearing voices group in your area and become a hearing voices group facilitator.
Dates for the training are November 12th & 19th and December 3rd & 10th. Download the training application here. For more info, contact
Recovery Learning Community
187 High St., Suite 303
Holyoke, MA 01040
Fax: 413-536-5466 (attn: Oryx)
Submitted by admin on Mon, 01/18/2010 - 01:54
Thank you Judi Chamberlin for all your inspiration, your years of friendship and support for Freedom Center, and the inspiration you have given the survivor movement.
Judi passed away. She recently wrote:
Submitted by lee on Wed, 06/24/2009 - 15:30
The Freedom Center's Monday night yoga class has been going on for about 8 years. We recently had to suspend classes because of our financial crisis and because our long-time yoga instructor Chaya Grossberg has moved on to the west coast.
The Somatics' Institute, the yoga space that we were paying rent on, has generously offered to give us the space for free! We have also recieved many donations that should allow us to keep up our programs at least through the summer (please donate more if you wuold like to see our programs go on longer than that!!)
We also found a new yoga instructor, Sally Morgan who is also a crainosacral therapist to take over the Monday night class. So join us mondays at 7pm. Hope to see you there!
Submitted by admin on Wed, 06/17/2009 - 13:19
A blog article by former Boston Globe health journalist and _Side Effects_ author Alison Bass profiles the Freedom Center & Caty Simon. Fairly accurate, and yay coverage, and yay Alison Bass.
Submitted by lee on Sun, 05/24/2009 - 16:39
You can donate tax-deductibly via cash or check by mailing a donation to:
Submitted by admin on Wed, 05/06/2009 - 09:11
Newsweek magazine just did a big story on Mad Pride and The Icarus Project, profiling Freedom Center co-founder Will Hall.
Submitted by lee on Sun, 03/29/2009 - 13:51
Yet again, the city of Northampton has recognized the valuable services that Freedom Center has provided and has given the Freedom Center additional funding to keep our programs going. The city of Northampton awarded the Freedom Center $2,500 towards helping to maintain our weekly writing group, acupuncture clinic, yoga classes, and support group. All of these programs take place in Northampton and are free and open to the public and therefore provide lots of benefit to northampton residents.
Submitted by admin on Sat, 02/21/2009 - 03:38
Note - after many years of Freedom Center offering free acupuncture weekly, these services are now being organized by the Recovery Learning Community in Holyoke - contact them for more info!
Submitted by admin on Fri, 02/06/2009 - 01:16
The solicitation ordinance, which if passed would have de facto criminalized panhandling in most of downtown Northampton, has been withdrawn by the mayor's office & the police department from the Northampton city council'sconsideration and is "tabled indefinitely".
They cited "polarization around the issue" (that is, increased opposition to it!) making the discussion "no
Coming Off Drugs Guide Now In Spanish! Guia Reduccion de Drugs Psiquiatricas Disponible en Castellano!
Submitted by admin on Mon, 02/02/2009 - 15:04
The Harm Reduction Guide to Coming Off Psychiatric Drugs, published by The Icarus Project and Freedom Center, is now available in spanish - thanks to the dedicated translation work of Agustina Vidal from Buenos Aires Argentina.
Submitted by admin on Mon, 01/26/2009 - 12:01
John Brodie was a Vermont man who died in an encounter with Brattleboro police in 2006 after neighbors called 9-11. At 36, John was a Princeton PhD and already a world-reknowned physicist widely published in scientific journals. He was also a psychiatric abuse survivor, whose non-ordinary mental states were repeatedly met with force in hospitals. On the night of his death, he was not violent or suicidal, but was behaving in a strange way -- knocking on doors at 11pm. Confused neighbors called the police, which escalated a harmless situation into a tragedy. John ran away, terrified of the police, and went into the freezing river.