Lobbying: It’s easier than you think
Lobbying legislators in person is vital to gaining the support required to pass needed legislation. When a state legislator has a meeting with or hears from several members of their legislative district about a particular issue, they take that information with them to committee meetings and utilize this information when bills come up for a vote.
My first advocacy experience was during my service as Public Relations Chair in 2011 for our local MHCGR chapter. I remember saying to myself, “I don’t know what I’m doing, this is scary and what do I say.” I think what’s most important is finding a couple of others to ally with when visiting these legislators. I’ve never had a bad experience yet! Legislators are very interested in what their constituents have to say, professionals and students alike.
A key part to advocating for the profession is teaming up with your local professional organizations like that of your local NYMHCA chapter. There is so much experience and wisdom among the practitioners that make up these groups.
Most importantly, it’s crucial that you know that you as a single person speak loudly and if everyone visited a legislator, wrote a letter or sent an email to their representatives, I believe this year we could solve several issues that have for many years restricted the profession of mental health counseling.
NYMHCA provides many documents that you can bring with you when you meet with your legislator. If you would like more information about this, please email us. Additionally, NYMHCA has several suggestions, including the following:
- It is best if you print off any documentation you bring with you on paper that is a heavier weight than regular printer paper. A large amount of ink on a page can cause the paper to curl if it’s not a heavier weight.
- Please bring at least 3 copies of the documents to a legislator meeting. The legislator will often have a staffer in the room and you will want to give them copies too. Sometimes you will see only a staffer and they will want to have copies for the legislator.
- Your legislators are interested in your experiences as an LMHC or student in his/her district, so take a few minutes to discuss this with them, as well as telling them how the message that you bringing with you to the meeting will positively affect your ability to provide mental health services to their community.
Many of our chapter members have visited area legislators. If you’d like to hear about their experiences, or if you’d like people to accompany you during your visits, just let us know!
Joshua Maldonado, LMHC, NCC
Chapter President, Mental Health Counselors of Greater Rochester