Ten ways you can get involved in advocating for Mental Health Issues:
1) Write a letter to the editor of your newspaper (as described here). Or, if you’re not a writer, you can watch your local newspapers for articles, editorials, letters to the editor, and editorial cartoons about mental health issues and forward links to them to the VOCAL office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2) If you are in the Richmond area, or want to travel into the area for a day, there are often public meetings to attend. If you attend a meeting you may have an opportunity to speak to an issue. If you don’t get an opportunity, or choose not to, speak, your presence is still valuable at these meetings to keep an eye on what different legislators are saying about mental health issues.
3) In your home district you can contact your own legislators and let them know about Recovery and how you feel about various issues before the legislature. This is important to do while the General Assembly is in session, but it’s also very important to do throughout the year.
4) If you are a Medicaid member, be part of committees for Magellan of Virginia, the company that administers Virginia’s Medicaid benefits. You can apply to join the Behavioral Health Governance Board or one of the Quality Improvement Committees using the application on their website – then email it to VirginiaGovernanceBoard /at/ MagellanHealth.com.
5) Rally your peers to be doing the same things that have been suggested here. Talk one-on-one with peers. Create a work group around an issue and approach your local legislators together.
6) Learn about bills that affect peers by using a website like Virginia General Bill Tracking. VOCAL generally does not lobby but we do stand up for our core priciples, such as self-determination. Our Public Policy Statement can be viewed here. If you would like to receive bill tracking updates, we recommend getting on the mailing list for the VACSB . While VOCAL does not always agree with the position taken by other groups, the VACSB updates do an excellent job of reporting on noteworthy bills. Other great resources include MHAV, The National Empowerment Center, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law and NAMI.
7) Join VOCAL’s Advocacy Committee. These meetings are open to all and generally take place by conference call. We discuss systems change issues for mental health care delivery in Virginia and meet more frequently during the legislative session. Contact email@example.com for more information.
8) Attend Mental Health Advocacy Day to meet with your House and Senate representatives in late January each year.
9) Create relationships with your representatives. You can find out who your legislator is using this website. You may want to contact your legislator by mail, email or phone or in-person at their office or at a Town Hall event. A full list of Virginia Senators, Delagates and Committees (along with contact information) is readily available online. Follow your reps on Facebook and Twitter.
10) When you do something, let us know. We can build off of what you’ve done through the year when the legislators are in session here in Richmond. Besides, it’s just nice to hear what our peers are doing across the state and we can mention your activities on the website or in the newsletter. We think it’s easier to take action on things if you see others are doing the same thing. Send us a brief email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for anything you can do right now to help.