Congressional Links & Resources
How to Communicate with your Members of Congress
Armed with your knowledge of psychiatric rehabilitation issues, understanding who has Congressional and Federal jurisdiction, where organizations stand on these issues, and who has oversight over them, you can communicate your support and concerns by writing letters to your Members of Congress or to Federal agencies with jurisdiction over these issues.
Communicating with Congress is relatively easy using http://www.house.gov and http://www.senate.gov. As a result of the anthrax incidents in several Congressional offices, regular US mail delivery continues to be delayed. Some offices report delays of as much as six weeks. When writing to your Member of Congress try the following:
- State clearly and concisely the purpose of the letter.
- Ask them for something specific: support or oppose a piece of legislation, provide help in getting a Federal agency to act or respond, etc.
- Specify that you are a constituent, that is, a registered voter in their district.
Typically,a caseworker or legislative assistant will review the specifics you provide and offer their support, if possible, or refer you to someone who can assist you.The more specific you can be up front, the better the response is likely to be.
What if your Member of Congress doesn’t sit on a committee with jurisdiction over psychiatric rehabilitation (PSR) issues?
The two best target groups for advocating for PSR issues are 1) Members of Congresswho sit on the “right” committees, that is, those with jurisdiction over PSR issues and 2) your own Member of Congress. If your elected representative is focused on energy issues, for example, there is obviously little overlap with PSR issues. However, there is an educational opportunity here. If the Member hears from enough constituents that PSR, mental health, or health care is a major concern, it is possible that over time they will devote more of their office’s resources to that issue.
How can I support my Member of Congress?
A good saying in politics is an early friend is a good friend…meaning your support of candidates who are interested in PSR issues early in their political careers or early in an election cycle goes a long way to gaining access to the Member and their staff once they are elected. (Of course, there is a downside if you end up backing a candidate who loses.) Your support can come in many forms:
- Making financial contributions – both large and small.
- Volunteering on campaigns – there are a variety of jobs ranging from staffing phone banks, delivering yard signs, writing position papers, writing letters to media, leafleting, and more. The Member's office can direct you to the campaign headquarters, which, by law, must be maintained separately. House members are elected every two years and every six years in the Senate, so someone is always running for federal office.
When you communicate with your Member of Congress or their staff, be sure to tell them that you are a contributor. They want to know their supporters. Tell them about the issues that concern you, making it clear that you need and want their help to rectify those issues.
Information & Resources on Health Care Reform
Review Health Care Reform legislation.
You can find federal legislative information from the Library of Congress on a website called “Thomas” (named after Thomas Jefferson) at http://thomas.loc.gov.
Public Policy News & Information Sites Online