I wasn’t always sure what Hill Day could add to my daily work life. Could I really make an impact? Would it really matter? With three years under my belt it turns out, yes and yes.
HILL DAY YEAR ONE: Learning about the Issues
Planning for my first trip to Hill Day was intimidating. Never having interfaced with legislators before, I wondered how I could possibly have an impact. I was delighted to find the helpful Hill Day coaching tools available on the National Council’s website. The step-by-step guides provided the confidence I needed to schedule appointments with Georgia legislators. I found myself actually learning about the issues.
HILL DAY YEAR TWO: Making a Difference
How can I make a difference? The second year I attended Hill Day with a coworker. The National Council staff connected us with others from Georgia, the medical director, Jon Rubenow, from Avita, a behavioral health agency, and Richard Gooden, the Director of Communications from Morehouse School of Medicine. As the <ahem> veteran, I guided them through the process. We did an impromptu tag-team effort in addressing the issues with the legislators as Richard took photos. The highlights of that trip include a photo taken with Senator Isakson, a “hug fest” with Representative Scott’s Health Legislative Assistant, Lauren, and hanging out with Dr. Rubenow at the Library of Congress while we waited for the group photo. It was a lot of fun. Who knew, right??
HILL DAY YEAR THREE: Discovering the Advocate Within
Last year I approached Hill Day with confidence. I sent out emails to my new-found friends and others in community behavioral health in Georgia several months in advance. I offered to organize the legislative visits and to coach the folks through the process who had never been to Hill Day. Once there, I bonded with more of my fellow Georgians, one of which was board member, Tom Ford. (What a great guy!) I even talked a few of them into participating in an interview on Mental Health Policy taped live at the event. I rescheduled one of the appointments to enable a few of us to attend a Congressional Hearing on HITECH Extension Bill with a passionate talk by Patrick Kennedy who joined us for this important event in spite of his excruciating back pain.
As instructed in the Hill Day coaching sessions (that faithfully I attended each year), I invited the legislators’ staffers to visit our organization when they return to visit Georgia. Imagine my surprise when I received an email a short time after Hill Day last year from Lauren, Rep. Scott’s HLA. She requested to visit my agency. We had actually connected! Rep. Scott signed on the support the HITECH Extension Bill as we had requested. He sent us an email to notify us. Our Hill Day efforts made a difference!
I received one last email from Lauren. Last September on day two of a CARF survey, I received her email congratulating us on being awarded the SAMHSA Primary and Behavioral Healthcare Integration grant. That was our first notification!
In retrospect, it’s amazing to think of how much Hill Day has changed me. I hope to see you at Hill Day 2011!