Local Health Departments Engage in Outreach with Members of Congress

By Eli Briggs, Senior Government Affairs Director, NACCHO 

Last month, during the annual Congressional summer recess, NACCHO members worked to educate Members of Congress about the work their health departments are doing to keep people healthy and safe.

Below one NACCHO member provides details of her experience:

On July 31, 2019, Representative Lauren Underwood (D-IL) and Representative Joe Kennedy (D-MA) held a Mental Health Forum at the Kendall County Health Department in Yorkville, IL.  During the forum both Representatives Underwood and Kennedy expressed enthusiastic commitment to improving access to mental health care.  Representatives were met by a packed room of community members who were invited to provide narratives on both personal mental health and mental health systems challenges that they had faced.  Representatives Underwood and Kennedy both graciously received concerns and questions and provided responses to those participating in the forum and told participants that their future policy decisions would be informed by what they heard at the forum. The Kendall County Health Department was also pleased to have quality mental health best practices and treatment services posted for all to view at the forum.  We want to express our heartfelt gratitude to Representatives Underwood and Kennedy for their commitment to mental health. 

 Dr. Amaal Tokars 

Executive Director / Public Health Administrator 
Kendall County (IL) Health Department

NACCHO is ready to assist other health departments with similar types of events, focused on priority health issues in their community. Members of Congress will be back home during the first few weeks of October, which is an ideal time to have them visit. NACCHO’s Advocacy Toolkit (https://www.naccho.org/advocacy) has sample invitation letters, fact sheet templates, and more to help make this visit a success, and NACCHO’s Government Affairs staff is always here to help.

Here in Washington, we will be focused on Congress’ work to fund the government for fiscal year (FY) 2020, which begins October 1. In July, Congress finally came to an agreement on a topline spending level by passing the Bipartisan Budget Act. This averted massive spending cuts across the board but has left very little time for the two chambers and the White House to reach consensus on its 12 appropriations bills. If they cannot complete this work by the end of FY2019 on September 30, a continuing resolution will be needed to keep the government open, funding government programs at current levels and allowing more time to negotiate a final compromise. We will likely need to muster all our grassroots efforts to help ensure strong public health funding levels.

If you are not yet, please sign up for NACCHO’s Congressional Action Network—it is free, open to anyone concerned with local public health policy and funding priorities, and our best way to quickly engage and make our positions known to elected officials. You can sign up here: https://www.naccho.org/advocacy or text JOINCAN to 50457.