Over the past six months, we’ve heard from you about thirteen Members of Congress visiting health centers in about ten different states! BIG thank you to those who’ve shared their stories. As mentioned in previous posts, inviting a Member of Congress for an in-person visit is a vital advocacy tool and a great way to strengthen a relationship that could potentially last for decades. Keep in mind, the House and Senate will be on recess from now until September 6th. So, for the next seven weeks, Members will back home in their districts, making this a great time to reach out. Here are a few short notes from the field about recent health center visits:
During the Memorial Day recess, Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) visited Wayne Community Health Center’s (WCHC) KAZAN Memorial Clinic in Escalante, UT. The Association for Utah Community Health (AUCH) says, “Besides our ongoing relationship with the Senator, one of our hospital partners, Intermountain Healthcare, reached out earlier to the Senator to facilitate visits to Health Centers and Rural Hospitals in Southern Utah. By cooperating with community partners, the visit transformed from something that might happen into a set date and time. The bulk of the work for the health center visit fell on Wayne Community Health Center in inviting patients, the media, and local elected officials.” A few tips they offered were to have a plan, document the visit, and cultivate a relationship with their staff. AUCH also worked diligently to promote the visit on social media. In a video posted on Senator Hatch’s Twitter and Facebook pages, he describes WCHC as, “a fantastic rural health center.”
Tip #1 and #2: For more on AUCH’s perspective of Senator’s Hatch’s visit as well as their tips for planning a tour, read President Pro Tempore Orrin Hatch Blog. Also, be sure to let NACHC and your state’s PCA know about any upcoming Congressional visit so you’re armed with the latest information regarding your Member. Don’t forget 2016 health center visits by your Rep., Senator, and/or delegate are one criteria used to determine 2017 NACHC Congressional Awards.
On June 1st, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) convened a roundtable discussion at Community Health Center of Lubbock (CHCL) to discuss local partnerships that support Lubbock’s mentally ill and homeless individuals. He also highlighted components of his proposed bill, Mental Health and Safe Communities Act of 2015, which is designed to strengthen the mental health system and improve public safety. Following the discussion, Senator Cornyn toured the newly opened health center and held a joint press conference. Senator Cornyn also included CHCL’s CEO in a short video on his Facebook page.
Tip #3 and #4: If your Member’s office reaches out to you for some feedback on an issue or bill(s), feel free to reach out to us (email@example.com). We are happy to provide you with requested information, background information on the Member, and some up-to-the-minute insight on what is currently percolating on Capitol Hill. Do your best with posting on social media as your Member may include you in their social media outlets as well. If possible, coordinate coverage with member’s communications staff so they can simultaneously promote.
Also on June 1st, Congressman G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) attended the ribbon cutting ceremony of Roanoke Chowan Community Health Center’s (RCCHC) newest site, Creswell Primary Care Clinic in eastern North Carolina. RCCHC did an all-around great job with publicizing the event by posting on their website’s RCCHS News, tweeting, posting photos on Facebook, and inviting the local news. Rep. Butterfield’s office made sure to tweet about it too.
Tip #5 and #6: Invite your Member to attend an event at your health center such as a ribbon cutting or ground breaking. In addition, alert local news sources of the event as they might feature the segment in the nightly news, similar to what WITN did with this event.
On June 3rd, Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) visited Piedmont Health’s PACE site in Pittsboro, North Carolina. Piedmont Health detailed the event on their Facebook page, “He (Senator Burr) talked with many participants while they were playing Bingo, saw the beautiful gardens and facilities and talked about this managed care model of providing service for seniors as a solid business model. He also saw the satisfaction of many happy participants and the depth of care that they received.” In addition, Carl Taylor, Director of the Pharmacy and Dr. Abby DeVries, Piedmont Health’s Medical Director spoke to Senator Burr about the benefits of the 340 B Program to community health center patients and the future of this program. Both Piedmont Health and Senator Burr posted the experience on their respective social media sites.
Tip #7 and #8: Show off your health center’s unique program(s) or service(s). Tell your story of how it came about and demonstrate your health center’s innovation to address the needs of your community. Make the most of this year’s National Health Center Week (NHCW) theme, “Celebrating America’s Health Centers: Innovators in Community Health.” Also, try to coincide the visit with one of NHCW’s focus days. For more information on this, please refer here.
For more how-to’s on inviting your Member and meeting tips, visit our Grassroots Advocacy website or read previous Congress Comes Home blogs (Part I and Part II). Refer to the NACHC 2016 Congressional Calendar to plan a congressional visit or tour. Don’t forget, August 7th through 13th is National Health Center Week (NHCW) and another opportune time to invite your member to tour your health center.
Do you also have a story to share? What tips and tricks have you learned in the process of scheduling and organizing Congressional visits? Do you alert the local press or utilize social media? Let us know by emailing your story, photos if available, and tips for fellow health centers to firstname.lastname@example.org.