Throughout the past month, NACHC’s Washington Update has featured a new item called “Congress Comes Home: Health Center Visits with Members of Congress” asking health centers to highlight recent visits by Members of Congress. Below we highlight a few recent visits. 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 their entire time in Congress. Here are quick excerpts from a few health center experiences so far this year:
In February, Congressman John Conyers Jr. (D-MI) visited Western Wayne Family Health Center (WWFHC) in Inkster, Michigan. As a longtime advocate for community health centers, Rep. Conyers was already aware of the comprehensive services provided at WWFHC, however with the growing opioid epidemic, the Congressman specifically wanted to hear more about what was happening on the ground. WWFHC also hosted a congressional staffer from Senator Debbie Stabenow’s office.
Tip #1 and #2: Contact the member’s congressional offices (both in DC and district). Inviting and building a relationship with health staffers is very important as they have their member’s ear. Also, know what the hot issues are on the hill. You can do that by visiting this blog or simply email email@example.com for some up-to-the-minute insight.
On Thursday March 31st and during recess, Congressman Pete Olson (R-TX) visited AccessHealth’s main health center in Richmond, Texas. He spent an hour touring the health center as well as speaking with staff on current projects and concerns about issues affecting FQHCs. Congressman Olson was thanked for signing FY2017 Community Health Center Dear Colleague Letter and for his continued support. AccessHealth made sure to post photos and a quick description of the visit to their Facebook page.
Tip #3 and #4: Make sure you are up to date with your member’s actions. For example, did he or she sign our most recent Dear Colleague letter? You can find that out on our website www.nachc.com/federal or simply by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, be sure to promote the visit on your health center’s social media accounts (Twitter, Facebook, etc.). If possible, coordinate coverage with member’s communications staff so they can post on their website too.
On Friday April 1st and during recess, Tulip Tree Family Health Care in Fort Branch Indiana hosted Congressman Larry Bucshon (R-LA). Congressman Bucshon toured the clinic and later discussed healthcare issues with Tulip Tree Leadership and Board Members. Tulip Tree Family Health Care invited both the Princeton Daily Clarion and South Gibson Star Times to help publicize the event.
Tip #5 and #6: Invite local newspapers and/or media for the congressional health center visit. Again if possible, coordinate coverage with the member’s staff. Also, remember to check the Congressional calendar to see when your member is likely to be back home in the district.
On Friday April 8th and during House recess, Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) visited Family Health Center of Worcester’s (FHCW) School-based Health Center at South High Community School (SHCS) in Worcester, Massachusetts. He spoke with both the school and clinic staff about how FHCW and SHCS coordinated their efforts. At the health center, students are able to talk with health care providers about issues like mental health, homelessness, and hunger. In response, the school set up a community supported food pantry for students and their families.
Tip #7: Show off your health center’s innovative programs that meet the needs of your community. Each health center is unique so let your Member know!
For more how-to’s on inviting your Member of Congress and meeting tips, visit our Grassroots Advocacy website. For NACHC’s 2016 Congressional Calendar, refer here. Don’t forget August 7-13 is National Health Center Week (NHCW) and an opportune time to invite your member to tour your health center.
HUGE thank yous to those who’ve shared the stories of recent Member visits. 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. And don’t forget: 2016 health center visits by your Representative, Delegate, and/or Senator are one criteria used to determine 2017 NACHC Congressional Awards!