This summer, many of us are looking forward to our annual favorites: going to the beach, barbequing, and vacationing with family and friends. But did you know that August is an ideal time to meet with your elected officials?
Every August, Congress goes on recess so that legislators can leave Capitol Hill and head to their home districts. Many use this time to conduct meetings with constituents and hold town halls, which are large public forums where officials can hear from a number of voters at once and present their positions on hot-button issues. Health care reform and federal funding for medical research are two of the most debated topics these days, and you can educate your policymakers on how these issues impact you and the Parkinson's community.
Meeting your legislators can seem intimidating, but it's your right as a constituent and a person with Parkinson's to voice your opinions and concerns. Lawmakers need to hear from you so that they can consider your experiences as they construct legislation. The Foundation is designing an advocacy toolkit full of information and resources to help you prepare for and conduct your meetings, and we plan to release this in July.
In the meantime, contact your Congress members to schedule your appointments for August. (Their calendars fill up quickly during the recess.) As you do, remember the following:
- Lawmakers have multiple offices, so find the one closest to you. (You can do this using the tool at the top right of the MJFF advocacy page.)
- Many officials have electronic meeting request forms on their websites. If not, you can call the office directly.
- Staff members, rather than lawmakers, often conduct meetings. If this happens, don't be discouraged! Staff will share your story and communicate your message to the member as well as advise on policy decisions. Meeting with staffers is just as important as meeting with your legislators.
As you book individual appointments, look for town halls. To see if there is one in your area, visit your officials' websites, join their mailing lists and check your local news outlets. The Town Hall Project also maintains a calendar of events across the country. Dates will be added over the coming weeks, so continue checking.
Don't wait until August to start advocating. Visit our updated advocacy page, advocate.michaeljfox.org, for:
- An overview of the legislative process and a glossary of key policy terms,
- A presentation and flyer to involve others in advocacy, and
- Templated emails about Parkinson's-related policy issues to send to your lawmakers.
Stay tuned to our blog and your email for upcoming information about the toolkit. We look forward to advocating with you this summer!