Josh Gitch, OCA Advisory Committee
Perhaps cliché, but What a Day on the Hill! I was fortunate enough to participate in the event this year for the first time. I’ve been blessed to go to our State’s Capitol roughly a dozen times throughout my life, starting with trips with my parents and relatives to going on school trips to recent years advocating for and talking with legislators on specific issues. But this year with NAMI was definitely like no other experience I’ve had at the Capitol, plus I had three BHG Peer Support Recovery Center co-workers with me including Rachel Dray, Carolyn Mashek and Denis Winkelpleck. We were able to soak in the day alongside each other with hope and appreciation for the opportunity to participate in the political process.
In our morning session, we were thoroughly informed of NAMI Iowa’s 2017 Legislative Priorities, including two specific bills regarding the Mental Health Property Tax Levy and modifying the “Fail First” policies of health insurers. A particularly helpful part of the morning session for me was practicing “How to Lobby.” Again, I’ve advocated before, but I improved tremendously by practicing together as a group. We went over both general advocacy talking points and specific talking points regarding the Property Tax Levy and “Fail First.” That armed me with information and solid questions for legislators. It gave me a confidence to approach and really go in-depth with legislators I’d never felt before. I believe it’s fair to say this rise in confidence was shared by all.
For our afternoon session, we were finally off to the Capitol. After taking in the beauty and history of the building itself (and of course a few pictures), we got to work reaching out to our target audience. Personally I spoke with three different legislators, twice alongside other advocates. One thing I learned is how beneficial it can be to advocate and educate with others championing the same cause. This “Tag Team” approach helped us cover the entire gamut of information, concerns and questions we had for legislators, thus necessitating a qualified response from them.
Finally, I was present at the OCA Advisory Committee meeting which began upon returning from the Capitol. Along with the usual procedures, Karen Hyatt, IDHS, gave us a wonderful presentation on the history of the Iowa OCA. We even looked at notes from an OCA meeting held roughly a decade ago which gave us a point of reference regarding how far we’ve come, what issues are still around and where we want to go. Another major point at the meeting was our desire for more applicants for the OCA Advisory Committee in order to increase our representative coverage of the entire state. We need more voices from across the state, people! Please let us know if you or someone you know is interested or wants more information on becoming an OCA Advisory Committee Member.
In conclusion, this year’s Day on the Hill was a giant success by all standards. I walked away invigorated and with a renewed sense of passion for the work I do and the blessings I receive from peers on a daily basis. Without question, I will be back again.
Kevin Lone, OCA Advisory Committee
This year I had the pleasure of participating in NAMI Iowa’s Day on the Hill. I have to admit that I was quite anxious going into the day as I went on my own and hadn’t been to the state house since I was in grade school. The preparation time in the morning was helpful in gaining a better understanding of the issues that we were going to be discussing at the capitol. As we made our way to the capitol anxiety got the better of me and although I did not speak with my legislators I did learn how the process works. After returning from the capitol I listened to stories of others who were successful in reaching their legislators and having open and honest discussions with them about the issues. This was a great learning experience for me and I encourage others to participate in the future.