Since our last “Congress Comes Home” blog, we have had more and more health centers share stories of their recent Member visit(s). HUGE thank yous to those who’ve already shared their stories! Inviting a Member of Congress for an in-person visit is a great advocacy tool and a great way to strengthen a relationship that could potentially last for decades. Keep in mind that next week, from May 30th to June 3rd, both House and Senate will be out of session so right now is a great time to reach out. Here are short excerpts from a few health center experiences so far this year:
In mid- February, Congressman Rod Blum (R-IA) visited Eastern Iowa Health Center and Congressman David Loebsack (D-IA) visited both Community Health Centers of Southeastern Iowa and River Hills Community Health Center. These visits were scheduled when the House was out of session. To coordinate efforts, the health centers notified the Iowa Primary Care Association of the visits who then relayed the information to NACHC.
Tip #1 and #2: Be sure to let NACHC and your state’s PCA know about the health center visit ahead of time. They can provide you with background information on the Member as well as help compile any statistics or information needed to illustrate your concerns. Feel free to email email@example.com for some up-to-the-minute insight. Also, check the 2016 Congressional calendar to see when your Member is likely to be back home in the district. Friendly reminder that the next recess is May 30th to June 3rd. Don’t forget 2016 health center visits by your Rep., Senator, and/or delegate are one criteria used to determine 2017 NACHC Congressional Awards.
In April, Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN) organized a roundtable discussion with various community leaders regarding health disparities within the Asian American and Pacific Islander community at United Family Medicine in St. Paul, Minnesota. Participants involved included the Minnesota Association of Community Health Centers, MN Department of Health, St. Paul-Ramsey County Public Health, and Council of Asian Pacific Minnesotans. The discussion was featured in Congresswoman McCollum’s newsletter as well as posted on her Twitter account.
Tip #3 and #4: Inviting a member to your health center doesn’t always have to mean you conduct a tour. It can also include community events, like this roundtable discussion with stakeholders. This is an opportunity to address your concerns or current issues or barriers impacting your community’s access to healthcare. However, make sure to work with the Member’s office to ensure an appropriate amount of time for the event. If possible, coordinate with the Member’s communications staff when posting on social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc.).
On April 28th, Family HealthCare Network (FHCN) celebrated the opening of their newest Community Health Center in Traver, CA. In attendance were local government and school leaders, a field representative from Congressman Devin Nunes’ office (R-CA), FHCN board and staff, and Traver community members. Not only did they celebrate with a ribbon cutting but also conducted guided tours of the new health center, and had live entertainment on hand from students of Traver Elementary School’s band and folkloric dance team. Sounds like a fun time!
Tip #5, #6 and #7: There are elected officials at multiple levels of government who have a stake in the healthcare system so it is beneficial to make an effort to build relationships with all elected officials. The more the merrier. In addition, add some fun activities to the schedule and demonstrate how essential your health center is to the surrounding community. Also, create and publicize a press release of the event to attract more attention from local media and community members.
Earlier this month, Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) visited Community Health Association of Spokane’s (CHAS) Health’s Maple Street Clinic where she held a press conference with a fellow WA state representative to urge Washington to implement the Federal Basic Health Plan and afterwards toured the facility. Combined CHAS and Senator Cantwell’s office did a fantastic job of disseminating the event via Facebook, Twitter, press releases, and blogs. To keep the conversation flowing, CHAS staff made sure to invite Senator Cantwell and her staff to visit again in the near future, especially during the August recess and National Health Center Week (NHCW).
Tip #8 and #9: Do your best in promoting the visit(s) via social media, blogs, press releases etc. If you would like some technical support, please feel free to reach out to us at NACHC. We have lots of helpful resources at your fingertips. Invite your member to visit in August, particularly during National Health Center Week (August 7th through 13th). Friendly reminder that the whole month of August, both chambers will be out of session meaning they should be back in their states and districts. This year’s theme is “Celebrating America’s Health Centers: Innovators in Community Health.” Time to shine and show off the innovative programs and services your health center provides in order to meet the unique needs of your community. Sky’s the limit!
Lastly, late last year Congressman Jim Costa (D-CA) visited Livingston Community Health’s (LCH) Hilmar Health Center in Hilmar, California. Rep. Costa congratulated and commended LCH staff on establishing their dental center. LCH has built a strong, positive relationship with Rep. Costa as he visits the three locations often.
Tip #10: Be flexible with your time requests. Members’ schedules can change, length of recesses differ, and things come up so make sure to allocate more than enough time during the visit. As the visit approaches, keep in contact with Member’s office for any updates or changes with his or her schedule.
For more how-to’s on inviting your Member of Congress and meeting tips, visit our Grassroots Advocacy website or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget, August 7th through 13th is National Health Center Week (NHCW) and another opportune time to invite your member to tour your health center.
Do you also have a story to share? What tips and tricks have you learned in the process of scheduling and organizing Congressional visits? Do you alert the local press or utilize social media? Let us know by emailing your story, photos if available, and tips for fellow health centers to email@example.com.