Yesterday, I attended the NASW Lobby Day in Richmond, Virginia. There, I had the opportunity to lobby for a bill that I was passionate about and see the inner-workings of our state government. My bill (HB 2042), unfortunately, had been tabled in subcommittee. However, it was still important to meet with delegates and senators to talk about the merits of the bill, and to ask for support if it were to be reintroduced or amended to a similar bill in the future.
Basically, the gist of HB 2042 was to require all medical professionals to receive comprehensive suicide prevention training. This would not only open up more opportunities for professionals to catch early signs of depression/suicidal behavior in clients but it will also increase accessibility of mental health care. I had appointments with Delegate Bulova, Senator Barker, and Senator Chapman. Due to committee meetings going on longer than expected, I had to meet with the legislative assistants of Del. Bulova and Sen. Barker. Still, it was an awesome experience and they were extremely engaged with the discussion.
Basically, my point of writing this is to emphasize just how important being active in advocacy and policy is – especially at the local level. As constituents, we have the power to influence our representatives but we can only do that if we get out there and participate. It is so easy to make an appointment to meet with your legislators and if you are unable to actual head down to your state’s general assembly, make some calls or send some emails.
Of course, this is important to do at the federal level as well – and believe me, that is a whole other battle I’ve been facing. But too many times are our local governments ignored, and bills that could potentially help or hurt your community are introduced without you knowing about them.
Be involved! We are living in desperate times right now and it is required that the people stand up for what they believe in and let their voices be heard.