NAMI is recognized as the preeminent voice in Utah for the thousands of Utahns living with serious mental illness. NAMI advocates have fought for policy changes that raise the bar on mental illness care and promote treatment and research on par with other illnesses. NAMI's advocacy provides a unique voice for people who live with mental illness and their families in state and federal public and private-sector policies that facilitate research, end discrimination, reduce barriers to successful life in the community and promote timely, comprehensive and effective mental health services and supports. NAMI Utah works steadily to influence critical state policy debates as they unfold.
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An effective advocate is in large measure determined by how well one can communicate his or her issue or position with policy makers. There are numerous communication techniques that are available, but there is no one best method to achieve your goals. This information provides some hints on how you can improve your effectiveness as an advocate.
It is not only necessary to understand the legislative process, but also desirable to establish a personal relationship with your legislator, if you do not know who your legislator is, call your county clerks office, give them your address and they will give you the name of your state senator, House Member Representative and congressman /congresswoman. You will receive name address and home phone number, work number and capitol building phone and fax numbers. Do not be fearful of making contact. An elected official wants to hear from his/her constituents.
Try to find something about your legislator that shows you are interested in him/her. Log on to http://www.le.state.ut.us - all of the legislators are listed there. You can find out a few personal things like profession, party affiliation etc. This can help you to be sensitive to some important things in his/her life.
Write down some items that you would like to discuss with him/her and make that call. Call when the legislature is not in session - this is a getting to know you call. One of the keys to becoming an effective advocate is to maintain an ongoing relationship that creates an open channel of communication with your legislator. It is as important to legislators to feel free to contact you for your comment on an issue as it is for you to contact them to express your view. Try to: attend Town Hall meetings, personal short visits to get acquainted, attend open official functions, invite him/her to your open support groups or other meetings, find opportunities to honor your legislator for his/her service to the community. Always be grateful even if you don't agree on an issue.
During a legislative session, several hundred bills are introduced. In Utah we have as many as 900 bills during one session. This magnitude is overwhelming. Therefore, it is important to focus your efforts on only the bills that pertain to your issue. Know your message, be concise, be respectful, understand the consequences of the bill, know what your opposition is saying, use facts to back you up, but your personal experience is critical. Decide what points or your story are the most important as you do not have much time (2 minutes) to spend with a legislator at the capitol or even on the phone during the session.
Information is a powerful tool in the legislative process. Success depends on it and the effective advocate will be the one who is most familiar with it.
To establish a position for yourself or organization, you must make sure that you understand the details of the bill and its legislative intent. There are 2 primary resources for bill policy analysis.
Research will provide the necessary information for you or your group to establish a position - either supporting or opposing a piece of legislation. Know your position and make statements that send a clear message in support of or opposing a bill.
Many tools are available to gather support for your issues, However the first step is to form a plan to organize, coordinate and mobilize resources. Here is a check list:
We all need nutrition to support our bodies. A poor diet equals poor health, contributing to obesity, metabolic syndrome and diabetes - conditions that many people living with mental illness are at a high risk of developing. Nutrition is important for everyone. If you are living with mental illness, eating well is especially important for you, because what you eat can affect your daily life, mood and energy level. Healthy eating is not about being thin or deprivation. Healthy eating is about feeling good, having more energy, participating in your recovery and mapping out your future. Simply put, healthy eating is one of the best things you can do to improve wellness. Dietary guidelines set by the USDA state that a healthy diet is one that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fat free or low fat milk products. A healthy diet should include lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts. Be sure to limit saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, sodium and added sugars. Lear more about the U.S. government's guidlelines by reveiwing the food pyramid: mypyramid.gov.