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Nina Marshall

Director of Public Policy

Make Your Case, and Make it Quickly!

September 4, 2014 | Uncategorized | Comments
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Six tracks, 26 topic areas, 5000 attendees. You’d think I was plugging the next National Council conference (April 20th! Be there!), but I’m actually describing the legislative summit I attended a few weeks ago in Minneapolis for the National Conference of State Legislatures. I learned a ton – how some policymakers are thinking about state-run exchanges, rental networks, and Long Term Support Services, to name a few issues – but my biggest takeaway was this: make your case, and make it quickly. These people are busy.

State legislators have a myriad of issues flying at them all of the time: aging state infrastructure and insolvent pension systems; natural resources stewardship; criminal justice, education, energy and tax policy; and, oh yeah, the opioid epidemic, health reform implementation, and how to address an increasingly expensive healthcare system. Many of them don’t even have staff to serve as a brain trust.

So, here’s your advocacy lesson for the day: in any future dealings with your state legislators or their staff, address as quickly as possible the following two points:

  • Here’s a need you (the state legislator) have that I (a concerned citizen) can fill (not, “I have a need, please do something for me”)
  • Here are the concrete action steps you can take to get us from Point A to Point B (not “please develop a strategy and/or come up with the solutions yourself”)

Luckily, we were prepared. At the sessions on the opioid epidemic, we had handouts for legislators on Care Management Technologies and how to curb the misuse of pain medicines. At the Medicaid sessions on payment reform, we talked up the Excellence Act and coming of Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics, as well as Medicaid Enrollment for Justice-Involved Individuals. And, at almost every session I attended, our fact sheet on the National Behavioral Health Networks and State Policy Toolkit for Mental Health First Aid went like hotcakes. Feel free to use and adapt any of these for your own advocacy purposes.

This was an advocacy lesson, and also one important for any business relationship – get to the point, quickly, and show how you can meet the need of the person or organization you are working with. If you have an “ask,” make it concrete and actionable. If you follow this format, you’ll be much more likely to have success when you come face to face with a harried public servant.

Interested in more advocacy tips? Consider signing on to the National Council Ambassador Network and join our league of advocacy superstars.