The Critical Nature of Educating Candidates & Newly Elected Members of Congress About the Health Center Program and the HC Funding Cliff

The November 2014 election is just around the corner. In few short weeks, 36 seats in the Senate and all 435 seats in the House of Representatives will be up for grabs. While the thousands of petitions gathered by Health Center advocates and the legislative signatures collected on the “Dear Colleague” Congressional letter were powerful steps in the effort to avert the Health Center Funding Cliff, this busy election season presents Health Center advocates with a unique opportunity to make the case for the restoration of Health Center funding directly with the candidates – incumbents and challengers alike – who are campaigning in their home districts.

While it may seem counterintuitive to put time and effort into reaching out to all of those running for office, some of whom will inevitably not be victorious, reaching out to all the candidates in these races strengthens Health Center’s relationships with current officials and helps sows the seeds for new connections with future leaders.

NACHC Director of National Advocacy  and Civic Engagement

NACHC Director of National Advocacy and Civic Engagement Amanda Pears Kelly

“Today, as candidates are eager to learn about the local organizations that most support those in need in the community, and after the election this November, as newly elected officials consider the most important providers in their state and districts – Health Center Advocates must take every opportunity to provide a personal introduction to Health Centers and begin cultivating an important and lasting relationship,” said Amanda Pears Kelly, NACHC’s Director of National Advocacy and Civic Engagement. “Being able to demonstrate both the success and value of the Health Center model for candidates and newly elected officials will leave a lasting impression,” she continued, “especially as they consider healthcare issues in their official capacity and contemplate how resources should be used to support various programs in the future.”

These personal introductions are a sterling opportunity for your Health Centers to put itself on center stage and show candidates the amazing work and high quality services that your center provides to their constituents.

NACHC Director of Federal Affairs John Sawyer

NACHC Director of Federal Affairs John Sawyer

“A fundamental reason Health Centers have been so successful in the policy arena is that key decision-makers know who we are and understand what we do. Members of Congress need to feel a personal connection to our work at the community level in order to translate that into action at the national level,” said John Sawyer, NACHC’s Director of Federal Affairs. “This has never been more important – we need to be educating candidates, taking them on tours of Health Centers, explaining to them not only what we bring to the table, but what would happen if our federal support were to be cut. No matter who wins an election, doing proactive education with all candidates will pay dividends for health centers down the road.”

Thus, it is time for Health Centers to seize the moment! Reach out and invite candidates in your district to visit your Health Center so they can see first hand what makes Health Centers unique among health care providers. Be determined to make every “newly elected Member of Congress that arrives in Washington into a Health Center Champion – fully aware of the invaluable role Health Centers play in the community and to the health care system overall, fully aware of what is at stake relative to the Health Center Funding Cliff, and committed to take swift action to fix the Health Center Funding Cliff upon arriving in DC,” said Pears Kelly.

For more information about how to invite an elected official and/or candidates to your Health Center, how to prepare for and communicate effectively during these meetings, and more helpful resources, please check the Working with Elected Officials section on the saveourchcs.org website. If you do schedule a meeting with an elected official and/or candidates, please be sure to let us know by filling out this simple online form.

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