Advocacy Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

IMHCA Compiled some frequently asked questions for our advocates. Let us know if you have any other questions we could add to this. Email imhcagovernment@gmail.com.

How do I find my legislator?

Watch our Advocacy 101 video with all the info you need here:

Introduction to the Legislative Process – Emily Piper and Kayla Bell-Consolver discuss the legislative process, tips and tricks, and understanding what you can do as an advocate to participate in the legislative process.

 

The legislative website makes it easy to find your legislator and information about the committees they serve on, bills they have sponsored and how to contact them.  Click this link to find your legislator:  https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislators/find.

 

Should I only contact my legislator? If I’m not their constituent, will they listen to what I have to say?

 

It’s always best to first talk to your representative or senator who represents you. Legislators are always most responsive to their constituents. Developing that relationship BEFORE legislation is moving through the process is very important. Become a resource for them on issues impacting the mental health profession and your practice. 

 

Bills go through committee and subcommittee process before being placed on the debate calendar with the full senate/house. Your legislator may not serve on either of those committees or subcommittees but can be helpful in reaching out to their colleagues. Let your legislator know who you need them to talk with to target an issue. They may not intuitively know. As a licensed mental health counselor, you should share your thoughts with members of the full committee when there is a bill that you are advocating for/against. IMHCA will send out action alerts through weekly legislative updates, weekly email announcements, and social media posts to ask IMHCA members to contact members of the committee on specific pieces of legislation. We will give you specific legislators to target at these times and anyone can reach out to them and their own legislator.

 

Finally, it’s always good to reach out to sponsors of bills that you support and thank them for their work. This reinforces to them that Iowans care about this issue and they should continue fighting for it. This is also a great way to continue to build a relationship with your legislator and name recognition.

 

Is it better to email, call, send a letter, or request a meeting?

 

All three can be effective means of reaching your legislator.  An email to your legislator is the best place to start. Always, always, always, put in the subject line that you are a constituent and be sure to include your full name and address in the closing of the email. Legislators are inundated with emails and prioritize responding to constituents first. 

 

The second best contact method is to call or text them (if you have their cell phone).  As with an email, always indicate that you are a constituent.  During the legislative session, the capitol switchboard takes messages for legislators but keep in mind, these can be lost in the shuffle of activity.   

 

During the interim, when the legislature isn’t in session, reach out to your legislator to have coffee to talk about the issues.  Remember – your goal is to become a resource for your legislator to help in their decision-making when at the Capitol.  In addition, sign up for your legislator’s newsletter.  This provides key insights into the issues important to them and will provide information about local forums or listening posts they will conduct.  Their listing on the legislative website will include a link to subscribe.  Here is an example of this:

 

https://www.legis.iowa.gov/legislators/legislator?ga=90&personID=27019.  Click subscribe to newsletter to be put on the list.

 

How long should my message be?

 

Keep it simple and brief.  Clearly describe the issue or problem you are bringing to their attention.  Share some concrete examples and personalize the issue.  MAKE THE ASK!  What is it you want them to do – support or oppose a bill, introduce a bill etc.  And remember, a lot of information from all directions comes at legislators so being brief is the key.

 

How personal should I get about why this issue matters to me?

 

Telling your story about why this issue matters to you is a great way to engage your legislator! They want to know both what matters to their constituents and why it matters. People remember stories more than data, so help your legislator understand why this matters to you.

 

Should I only reach out to legislators who I know are friendly to mental health issues?

 

No! We need every legislator to hear how important mental health care is for Iowans. The more they hear that a topic is important to Iowans, the friendlier they are likely to become towards the cause. Let them know what matters to you, regardless of their past voting record.

 

Does it matter what political party my legislator belongs to? Should I still reach out to them?

 

Please contact your legislator regardless of their party affiliation. Legislators from all political parties need to hear what matters to their constituents and that mental healthcare is an important concern for Iowans.

 

How do I know who to contact about certain bills?

 

IMHCA will always provide information on bills that we are taking an active stance on and include contact information.  However, for other bills, your best place is to check the legislative website.  Most bills impacting mental health in Iowa go through the two chambers’ respective health and human services committees.   Here’s how you find members of those committees:

 

https://www.legis.iowa.gov/committees.  Clicking on the committee gives you the names (and links) to all the members of the committee.  You can also see which bills are in that committee and what their meeting agendas are.

 

Should I ask my legislator questions about their stance on the issue, or just share my view?

 

Both are valuable, but always share your view regardless of what they say their stance is.  Remember to disagree politely if your legislator takes a view that is different from your view.   In today’s world, political views can be highly polarized.  But, just because you disagree on one issue doesn’t mean you won’t agree on another.  Building those relationships is the most important thing you can do as an advocate.