Making advocacy accessible: 5 learnings from my first congressional briefing


Should you’re like me, the thought of attending a congressional briefing could also be intimidating and complicated. Initially, I anticipated what you would possibly see on C-SPAN – to stroll into a big assembly room stuffed with older, influential authorities representatives questioning folks as they stand in entrance of a microphone. As psychological well being advocates, or future advocates, our voices matter, and attendance at a majority of these boards is crucial for change. Maybe, such as you, the considered one thing so formal was intimidating.

What I skilled, nevertheless, was far much less stoic. In truth, it was the precise reverse of what I used to be anticipating. They even supplied snacks and refreshments.

Briefing fundamentals

Congressional briefings are like mini informational classes stuffed with folks from all corners of the nation who share a typical curiosity or concern. The primary objective is to supply insights into a problem by detailing its prevalence and serving to folks perceive that change is important for enchancment. As soon as that data is supplied, members can clarify how and why their proposed resolution would profit the better good.

Just lately, Psychological Well being America and our companions organized a congressional briefing to debate the significance of peer assist companies and what’s wanted from Congress to increase entry. You’ll be able to try the recording right here. For somebody new to psychological well being advocacy or desirous to develop into extra concerned within the legislative facet, listed below are discoveries I made that may assist in your journey.

5 takeaways and suggestions

1. Should you’re on the lookout for an answer to a systemic challenge, it’s essential to present data on why and the way that challenge impacts common residents – and supply options.

On the newest briefing, Psychological Well being America gathered a gaggle of specialists in peer assist companies to debate why new options are important to their work and the way others can become involved. Among the many panelists, one supplied direct peer assist companies in underserved communities; the second acquired these companies as a youngster and has since devoted their life to making sure different younger folks have that very same entry; the third works for a medical health insurance supplier that reimburses peer assist specialists, rising entry for a lot of people in want; and the fourth panelist shared her expertise with institutionalization and professionals who claimed her prognosis would stop her from dwelling an on a regular basis life. All 4 specialists supplied in-depth data and dwelling proof that peer assist companies are efficient and ought to be bodily and financially obtainable nationwide. The data they shared proved to attendees how useful peer assist companies have been to the lives of these they serve and confirmed how simple it will be to implement extra peer companies throughout the nation. As a company led by the voices of lived expertise, these real-life accounts gave insights into the difficulty. By then offering an answer and tips about how that resolution will be molded and utilized on a bigger scale, policymakers are left with tangible mechanisms to work with.

2. Assist from a number of teams and organizations is important.

Should you plan on asking for something from Congress, and even your native or state legislator, you had higher have ample assist from a number of sources. With 1 in 5 adults and 1 in 6 youth experiencing a psychological well being situation in any given 12 months, psychological well being will have an effect on everyone both instantly or not directly sooner or later of their lives. Having this data makes the case that psychological well being care is a bipartisan challenge, which has resulted in overwhelming assist from either side. That assist turns out to be useful when these asks are taken to Congress. Along with bipartisan assist, Psychological Well being America used this chance to collect like-minded companions and collaborators to tell the briefing. Rising the breadth and depth of the data, together with the varied our bodies of illustration, strengthened our asks.

3. “Depart-behinds” present crucial data and summaries.

Congressional briefings have a tendency to supply a lot data inside a brief interval, so it’s cheap to imagine a few of that data could also be glossed over or not retained. Staffers, liaisons, and others in attendance might have to relay what they heard to a Congressperson or different employees, and also you wish to be sure they hit the important data. The aim of a leave-behind doc, or one-pager, is to make sure your viewers understands the message and might reference it as soon as the briefing ends. On this specific briefing, we had six asks that included data on completely different acts, invoice proposals and calls to motion, all blended in with impactful tales of lived experiences from our panelists. Offering attendees with a brief, concise abstract of the focal factors ensures these with the facility and motivation to take motion have the right data to take action.

4. Invite the fitting audio system, organizations, and different attendees.

If you’re internet hosting a briefing, or advocacy occasion, getting the phrase out to key people and organizations will go an extended option to strengthen your message and enhance the possibilities of asks being put into laws. With psychological well being being a priority for everybody, no matter their political affiliation or demographic profile, it stands to purpose that almost all people would wish to see situations enhance. At this briefing session, the invite listing included over 70 organizations who needed to study extra about or shared our ardour for peer assist companies. We additionally invited specialists to share their lived expertise: Tiara Springer-Love, a psychological well being advocate from New York; Lauren Foster, a behavioral well being program supervisor at Blue Cross Blue Protect, Minnesota; Vesper Moore, a psychological well being advocate at Kiva Facilities; and Dana Foglesong of the Nationwide Affiliation of Peer Providers. By having panel specialists from numerous corners of the psychological well being world, we might talk about the a number of obstacles to implementation and potential options to bettering entry. The big selection of attendees improved our possibilities of spreading that data all through teams and organizations to garner much more assist. That is essential for targets like rising funding for analysis and advocating for grants and assist for group organizations that present peer assist companies.

5. Congressional briefings are a fantastic place to community and meet people with comparable agendas.

If you’re attending a congressional briefing, it’s most likely as a result of you’ve got a vested curiosity in the subject material – together with the opposite attendees. Frequent pursuits make it the right alternative to fulfill face-to-face with different individuals who share your ardour and might talk about options. A enterprise card is a should in the event you plan to increase your skilled contact listing. Moreover, introducing your self to panelists after the session is all the time a good suggestion. In any case, these audio system are specialists of their discipline and have expertise in your space of curiosity.

Finally, my scary notion of congressional briefings at Capitol Hill was shattered, and I’ll attend extra ought to I get the prospect. I arrived feeling anxious and misplaced however left feeling supported and rejuvenated in being part of the answer. I additionally realized rather a lot regardless of being well-versed within the topics. It helped to listen to accounts of lived experiences and notice that others care about and wish to enhance psychological well being in our nation. Plus, the snacks they supplied had been wonderful. Should you get the prospect to attend a congressional, and even state authorities, briefing, take it.

Watch recording of congressional briefing

Makalynn Powell is the Peer and Youth Coverage Fellow at Psychological Well being America.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *