On March 14th, I had the privilege to be one of hundreds who traveled across the state to attend Mental Health Day at the Minnesota State Capitol. Organized by the Mental Health Legislative Network (fifty members, including MN DHS, NAMI and Wellness in the Woods) this annual event serves to educate and advocate for building the state’s mental health support system.
NAMI staff and volunteers helped kick off the day at Christ Lutheran Church. We were briefed on the day’s legislative committee meetings, their times, location, and appointments with House and Senate representatives scheduled. There were several inspiring speakers. Common themes were: parity (mental-physical) in health care, paths to wellness, greater consumer input on policy, and holistic & community-centered approaches like wrap-around services in certain public schools.
Advocate handouts included:
State Advisory Council on Mental Health and Subcommittee on Children’s Mental Health
Bi-annual report to the governor
Legislature of recommendations on how to improve the state’s mental health system
The Governor’s Budget Recommendations Impacting the Mental Health Community
NAMI’s Five Steps to Telling Your Story
We were given a citizen toolkit with tips for preparing to meet with legislators including: being on time, presenting yourself positive and friendly (even if you don’t like them…), don’t talk for more than five minutes, and remember to always focus on issues that are currently before a committee your legislator is serving on or coming up for a vote. We all have particular issues we care about, but we need to focus on what’s happening right now and work as a movement to accomplish our goals.
My Senate and House members were engaged and supportive, and also accommodating. Rep. Liz Olson happily agreed to my request to “walk and talk” as her committee was about to convene. With preparation, I was able to tell my story in two to three minutes.
For more information and to learn more about many critical bills being advanced to build our mental health and interconnected systems under consideration, visit the Minnesota DHS website here.
Our legislators need to hear from everyone about the issues that matter to us. Please call/write to tell them your story, as these are what can persuade hearts, minds, and purse strings.