Spotlight: ALP Master of Advocacy- Bill Wesender

“Spotlight: ALP Masters of Advocacy” is a CFAHC blog series that shines a light on individuals who completed the Advocacy Leadership Program (ALP). Each year the ALP begins at NACHC’s Policy & Issues Forum continues throughout the year via advocacy educational webinars and an ALP Advocacy Project. Participants learn from both NACHC Advocacy Staff and each other how to develop and hone their advocacy skills in order to build advocacy capacity and develop a robust network on the ground in their communities. These blog articles feature the creative and successful advocacy work completed by some graduates of the ALP.

Today, we’re hearing from Bill Wesender, 2014 ALP Master of Advocacy, regarding his work on the Access is the Answer campaign at Aunt Martha’s.

Bill_HeadshotAunt Martha’s is a large community-based agency serving families and youth in the Chicago area and rural Illinois. When I returned from the NACHC Policy & Issues Forum in Washington, DC in the spring of 2014, the Health Division was engaged both in streamlining clinic service delivery procedures and bringing the electronic records system to nineteen clinics, as well as to administrative offices, across the state. Realizing how devastating a 70% cut to their funding would be if Congress doesn’t fix the Health Center Funding Cliff, especially with all of the projects being undertaken, Marsha Conroy, Director of Advocacy and Policy, presented NACHC’s Access is the Answer campaign to senior management using the Grassroots Action Center to generate messages to Members of Congress and collect petition signatures efficiently.

I went to five clinic sites, identified by our medical staff, multiple times over two weeks, asking patients in the waiting rooms to sign the petition. I also asked several community service groups to sign the petition, and eventually gathered over 500 signatures. Many stories were shared along the journey, several volunteers were identified for the agency, and I gained a better feeling for what it’s like in waiting areas.


Rep. Adam Kinzinger visits Aunt Martha’s during NHCW 2014. L to R: Rep. Kinzinger, Bill Wesender, Marsha Conroy, Heather Foster (NACHC) and Raul Garza. Photo courtesy of Aunt Martha’s.

Marsha Conroy regularly invites elected officials and community members to visit our clinics. We were fortunate to have Representatives Bill Foster and Adam Kinzinger visit our sites during National Health Center Week this year. Using the NACHC literature in conjunction with our new publication, “Cutting-edge. Care. Coordination.”, we discussed the Health Center Funding Cliff and how it would impact our services and their constituents. They were both great visits and reflect bipartisan support for resolving the crisis in 2015. At the time of this writing, eight Members of Congress from Illinois have signed the support letters NACHC has circulating in both the House and Senate, which is a great conclusion of this phase of the advocacy campaign.

[UPDATE: At the close of the sign-on period for the support letters, 18 of the 20 members of IL’s congressional delegation had signed on.]

Bill Wesender

Former Board President, Aunt Martha’s & Health Center Advocate

Congratulations, Bill, on completing the Advocacy Leadership Program and being one of our 2014 Masters of Advocacy!

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