In her recent post, our CEO Julie Bluhm shared a bit about Guild’s legislative and policy priorities, and looked ahead toward the 2023 legislative session. The stubborn issues facing mental health providers still exist – we need rates of reimbursement for our services to meet inflationary pressures. We need to make sure we can recruit and retain qualified, talented people to work in our field with good wages and education debt relief. And, we need to address a rapidly growing housing crisis.
It’s important that we as an organization advocate for systemic, policy change. Mental health professionals have a special role to play—and so do you! As a Guild supporter, there are myriad ways you can use your voice to help advocate for Guild clients this session and beyond. If you work at Guild or for another mental health organization, you should also know that legislators appreciate hearing from constituents who work in the field and understand the challenges and opportunities inside and out.
We recently participated in an Advocacy 101 presentation with the Mental Health Providers Association of Minnesota and the Minnesota Community of Mental Health Programs, and we’re sharing some insights from that conversation below!
Advocacy 101 – Tips to Take Action
First of all, get to know your representatives. This tool allows you to look up who represents you by your address. You can make phone calls, and send letters and emails to any of your representatives about the issues you care most about. Many legislatures will meet with you as well, and, if you’re an organization, it can be a good idea to invite your representatives in for a tour to learn more about the work you do. The key is contacting your representatives consistently and trying to establish a relationship.
Make Your Message Stand Out
Once you do get in touch with your representatives, it’s important to understand legislators are busy people who normally sit on several committees. When giving them important messages about your work, or advocating for a specific policy change, make sure the information is concise and eye-catching. This can help float your advocacy to the top of the pile.
Bill-tracking is an important way to keep up to date on what’s happening during the session. Many organizations that work on issues provide weekly legislative update emails. For mental health, NAMI Minnesota provides thorough weekly updates. You can sign up for those here. For housing, Homes for All Coalition does the same. Sign up for their updates here.
Take Action That Works for You
When you sign up for alerts and follow advocacy groups, you’ll get plenty of opportunities to weigh in by sending emails, calling, or writing notes of support or disagreement with legislative bills and activities. Written notes are most likely to be read, so make a bigger impact, followed by phone calls. Emails are generally tabulated (ie: “we got 100 against and 200 supporting”), so also have an impact. You’ll burn out if you respond to every action alert, so picking one or two issues to follow and focusing your advocacy helps make sure your advocacy is consistent.
Use the Power of Storytelling
Lastly, it’s critical to share your authentic stories about how the issues have affected you, your loved ones, and/or your work. This can include writing or sharing testimony during hearings relevant to your story. Representatives want crystal clear examples of how policies are both negatively and positively impacting their communities. Your story could be the one that motivates your representative to work more diligently on mental health or housing issues.
We will be sharing more soon about specific bills relevant to Guild’s work and how you can show up to support us. Follow us on social media and come back here to learn more!