What's it like to pitch a bill to congress?

Mr. Riggs went to Washington

June 19, 2019

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to head to Capitol Hill to talk to your legislators about actual LAWS?  You hear all the time about “taking it to the hill” – or you hear of a congressional representative “introducing a bill on the floor”.  Maybe you even went to your grandparents house and got a chance to watch some C-Span and saw our House of Representatives in action.  All 435 of them…and the 100 members of the senate all converge on Capitol Hill on a daily basis to discuss laws, legislation, and reform on some of our country’s most impactful decisions. 

Before I get too much into it, here's a quick video on AFSP advocacy:  

Quite honestly, if you’re anything like me – you never really gave it any thought…but when you’re put into a situation where YOU are the one responsible for talking to the legislators about laws that are important to YOU…it’s a nerve wrecking experience, let me tell you. You've got to find their office first...

Stop #1...

I like to compare it to a sales pitch.  You have these ideas, these bills that have been introduced – and there are THOUSANDS of them.  So there’s no way your representatives can have their finger on the pulse of EVERY SINGLE PIECE OF LEGISLATURE, so that’s where myself and about 300 colleagues come into play. 

I have been in Washington DC this week with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) learning about all the bills in play that NEED attention from our national leaders.  Mental health and suicide prevention should be a NATIONAL discussion.  It’s that kind of urgency.  In Wisconsin alone, suicide is the 9th leading cause of death.  926 people died by suicide last year alone…and that’s just in WISCONSIN! 

Gwen!

We spent this past week learning about all the bills, how to pitch them to our legislators, and how to get the most out of our time when we have our meetings.  These are VERY busy people who have 6-7 meetings a DAY sometimes, from different organizations just as important as the next.  For example, there was a group from the ALS foundation also in the offices making their rounds with their representatives.  There was a group lobbying for more efficient nuclear power.  Next, we come in and ask for $150 million in suicide prevention research.  No big deal, right? 

My co-worker from AFSP Gena and I were assigned with talking to six of our Wisconsin House members. Here are the other ones we visited:

Of course, Duffy has his snap code up...ha!

We were also there with our friends Beverly and Abe - who were talking to other legislators from Wisconsin in the SENATE side (Tammy Baldwin, Ron Johnson).  Here's a pic with them:

I was glad that the public policy people at AFSP were able to give us the rundown of the MAIN bills we needed to discuss with our leaders.  They circled around the following….I’ll summarize:

-Increased funding for the National Suicide Prevention lifeline (800) 273-8255.  We also urged our leaders to support local call centers.

-Keep up funding to the CDC and others for suicide prevention research.

-Continue to support bills that help our service members, veterans, and their families – as  1 in 5 suicides are veterans. 

You’re basically doing, as I said earlier - a sales pitch.  You’ve got 15-20 minutes to sit down with someone who has the ear of NATIONAL lawmakers.  People who can actually help make real change in our mental health system.  Is it a little nerve wrecking?  Yea.  But then you remember – the people you are meeting with are people who technically work for YOU.  For the most part, these are the individuals who are ELECTED into office. 

Would I do it again?  In a heartbeat.  I would practice my pitch more though.  I had a day to prepare at the conference I was at, but knowing what I know NOW – I feel more confident in my abilities to walk into the office of a US representative and keep these important mental health discussions top of mind. 

Plus, I made some new friends along the way...

Made some new friends in advocacy.

People from around the country who share my passion for suicide prevention and mental health reform. 

Another new friend Priscilla.

Until then I'll keep fighting for you, for those who are affected by suicide, and for those who aren't ready to share their story yet...I'm here to let them know they are not alone, and while we may be few, in the grand scheme of things, we are mighty in our message and we are armed with the facts to help our leaders know that mental health needs to be a NATIONAL priority. 

Talk to you in the morning...

 

Did you know YOU can be an advocate?  You don't even have to leave your couch, or head to Washington, you can do it from your phone or computer...www.afsp.org/advocacy  is the place to check it out...I promise its super easy.