Guest blog post by Toni Estep, CEO of Open Door Health Services in Muncie, Indiana
Reading one of the recent blogs regarding Connecticut’s “Text 2B Heard” campaign, I thought about what our health center, Open Door Health Services, has been doing regarding our advocacy efforts. Unlike the folks in Connecticut, we have stayed with the low tech approach to engage our patients. With the Sequester approaching we brought our management team together to brainstorm ideas about what we can do to get the word to our Senators and Congressman. One of the mechanisms that has worked for us in the past has been asking patients sign petitions that we then fax to Washington, DC. On Monday and Tuesday before the sequester was to kick in, we faxed petitions with almost 1,000 signatures from patients at all of our sites! To motivate the staff to remember to do this we held weekly competitions with small prizes for those securing the most names!
Indiana’s 6th District has a new Congressman, Luke Messer, who visited our health center for the first time this past week. His visit was a result of our outreach with his staff. We have been working with his local office which alerts us to his visits to town and I recently attended a small community forum where the Congressman answered questions. This helps us to be seen even if the issues aren’t always the ones we are there to address. At that meeting the topic was gun control, but I was able to meet some of his key staff and it resulted in a visit from his District Director, Mike Lynch on February 15. I was able to take him on a tour of our building and provide up to date information to him about what sequestration would do to our health center. The visit was very productive and allowed him to see first hand what happens at a community health center.
Regardless of what happens in March our Advocacy Team will not be stopping. Plans are already in place with trained volunteers to staff computers in our waiting rooms at each of our sites and assist patients to send emails to Congress. The staff has put advocacy messages on small candy bars that will be given to our patients. We are continuing with our petitions, and we are having patients outline their handprint with their name in the center on large rolls of paper. We are even getting the children involved in this. Our plan is to take these large signs to NACHC’s P&I on the Hill visits. What a great visual it will be to unroll these eight foot plus signs in Members of Congress’ cramped offices!