Public Affairs Kit2018-11-28T11:45:37-06:00

PUBLIC AFFAIRS TOOLKIT

Collected here are resources and templates to enable you to reach out to your elected officials and advocate effectively on digital platforms

Letters to Editor(s)

Despite declines in the industry, your local newspaper still has influence and readership. A letter to the editor is one effective way to share your views with the editorial team and more importantly the newspaper’s entire readership. Use these example letters to the editor and customize with your own take, data and point of view.

To the editor:

Current science more than ever recognizes that most mental illnesses–from mild to chronic–are actually “diseases of the brain” with physiological and biochemical causes. Yet unlike heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes and more, these diseases of the brain are stigmatized in our society. That’s a shame because mental illness will likely affect someone you know or love.

About one in four Arkansans will experience mental illness this year–ranging from mild or chronic anxiety or depression to severe bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Statistically in Arkansas, about 30,000 are diagnosable with schizophrenia–a disease twice a prevalent as Alzheimer’s, five times multiple sclerosis and six times diabetes.

And yet our state government is slashing reimbursements to mental health providers–threatening to drive many out of business even as I write. The most severely affected Arkansans are largely treated under Medicaid, and our Department of Health and Human Services has cut funding 11% in the past 18 months, reduced case management services by 38% and declassified an entire class of licensed professionals.

Some would argue–including our Governor–that saving the state money is good. However, these actions threaten to put thousands of severely mentally ill patients on the streets without recourse–creating hazards to their own health and that of society.

If this concerns you and your readers as it does me, I encourage you to become informed and involved at ARmindsMatter.org, the site of the movement to preserve mental health in Arkansas. Our state is already dead last in its funding and care for diseases of the brain. Let’s make it better today.

Signed,

[Your name]

[Your city]

To the editor:

The Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services is trying to crush mental health services in our state–a dire prospect for thousands of our fellow citizens and a risk to our society as a whole.

Since January of 2018, DHS has withheld millions of dollars in Medicaid reimbursements to our state’s mental health professionals, based on arbitrary and capricious decisions to reclassify services or decertify service providers with particular levels of education.  For instance, services delivered by the state’s [XYZs] providers are no longer reimbursed, although these professionals have for years provided effective–and cost-effective–therapy to their patients.

DHS’s decisions are threatening the survival of dozens of mental health service providers and putting at risk thousands of severely mentally ill patients–individuals who will otherwise likely be on the streets, homeless or in jail–a risk to themselves and to others.

This is a penny-wise-and-pound-foolish game that endangers the welfare of our most vulnerable citizens and society as whole. I encourage you to cover and investigate this abuse of the power of the purse-string. And I encourage your readers who care about a healthier Arkansas to get more information and get involved at ARmindsMatter.org and by following the #ARmindsMatter hashtag on social media. Arkansas is already dead-last in mental healthcare services. We hardly need to make it worse now, as DHS seems intent on doing.

Signed,

[Your name]

[Your city]

Letters to Legislator(s)

While there is no immediate legislation afoot that impacts mental healthcare in Arkansas, as the ARmindsMatter movement gathers steam we hope there will be. In the meantime, we want to be sure that our legislators hear from their constituents and understand the crying need for mental health care reform in our state. Arkansas trails every state in the U.S. in mental health investment; it’s time we move from the worst in the nation and the only way we’ll do it is through policy and action in the Legislature.

Dear [Name of Legislator:]

I’m writing as your constituent to share my views and ask for your consideration and support at the State Capitol. While there is no pending legislation today, I believe it is time our honorable legislators grasp the full extent of a crisis gripping our state. A crisis brought on primarily by our state government itself. As a legislator, I know that you have the influence to shape our state’s policy and practice, and I sincerely hope you will engage.

Mental health is under attack by our Department of Health and Human Services. In the past 18 months, DHS has reduced Medicaid payments to providers caring for the severely mentally ill by 11%. It has decertified an entire class of licensed professionals who have for years provided effective–and cost-effective–services to patients. These cuts threaten to force dozens of providers out of business and put thousands of vulnerable patients on the streets. Without proper medication and therapy they will become a risk to themselves and potentially those around them.

[Rep. or Sen.][Name of Legislator,] please pay attention to this issue. Multiple outreaches by our industry representatives to DHS Director Cindy Gillespie and her staff have fallen on deaf ears. We need the support and influence of our state’s elected officials to ensure our state government treats all citizens equitably and equally. The mentally ill are among our state’s most vulnerable population, and at the same time most harshly discriminated against.

Please register your support of caring for the mentally ill with DHS Director Cindy Gillespie and please work with Arkansas’ mental health providers in the next year to enact policy that treats brain illnesses with the same compassion and stature as other illnesses of the body.

As your constituent I sincerely appreciate your consideration of this pressing issue in our state.

Sincerely,

[Your name]

[Your city]

[Your title and company if writing on your letterhead]

Guest Commentary or Op-Ed

Many newspapers are pleased to run guest editorials or commentaries from readers. This form complements the newspaper’s own editorial page with healthy reader discourse; it’s an important way to make your views known in your community, and its appearance in the newspaper lends credence to your stated point of view. Mental health is a grossly misunderstood individual and societal concern, and the guest commentary format allows our industry providers a way to shine light into the darkness. Customize these examples with your own local color to make it more meaningful to the local editor and readership.

Mental Health in Arkansas is Sick

By [Your Name Here]

More than 55 years ago, President John F. Kennedy signed the Community Mental Health Act, declaring, “the mentally ill need no longer be alien to our affection or beyond the help of our communities.” A decade ago his nephew Patrick Kennedy sponsored federal mental health parity legislation requiring insurance companies to treat mental illness and physical illness equally in their benefits.

While there’s been progress on the national scene, Arkansas is woefully behind in creating a state of mental health. In fact, our state is quite sick in this area:

  • We rank 50th in healthcare services for those with severe mental illness
  • In Arkansas, about 128,000 adults (5.9% of all adults) per year in 2009–2013 had serious and chronic mental illnesses
  • More than half of those in our state with mental illnesses receive no treatment whatsoever
  • Yet in the past 18 months, our Department of Health and Human Services has cut reimbursements to mental health providers by 11% and case management services by 38%
  • It has also declassified an entire class of licensed professionals who have for years provided effective–and cost-effective–services to their patients

For a state already at the very bottom in mental health, these actions are unconscionable. Former Congressman Patrick Kennedy visited Arkansas in October to draw attention to this crying need. He called for our state to recognize that “diseases of the brain” deserve the same care and compassion as diseases of the heart, lung or kidneys. He called it not just a moral obligation but a legal one. He called for Arkansas to come into compliance with the Federal health parity law.

Dozens of providers and thousands of Arkansans are at greater risk than ever due to the actions of our DHS. I encourage you to become involved and informed at ARmindsMatter.org. We don’t need to be dead last again, yet here we are.

[Add a short bio on yourself that the newspaper can run in attribution.]

Stigma is discrimination

By [Your Name Here]

Over the past half-century or more, our society has learned and legislated against all manner of discrimination–whether for race, gender, physical ability or sexual orientation. Yet even today there is a class of our citizens that is highly stigmatized–the mentally ill. And it’s time we call stigma what it is–discrimination.

Today mental illness is commonly recognized as a disease of the brain–not a choice, not bad or antisocial behavior but a disease with physiological roots. Yet in the workplace and in our healthcare system, mental illness is still stigmatized, and the mentally ill are still treated like second-class citizens.

Therapists and physicians know well that even the severely mentally ill can be effectively treated with medicine and therapy. Recovery–getting well completely or at least enough to lead a fulfilling life–is possible for most. But it does require our healthcare system and our policymakers to treat mental illness on par with physical diseases.

This is not “somebody else’s problem.” One in four Arkansans will experience some mental illness this year–a definition that encompasses conditions ranging from mild anxiety to chronic depression to schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. That’s 700,000 of our fellow citizens, most likely someone you know or love.

I encourage you to become informed about mental health and diseases of the brain so you can make a difference–even if it’s only seeing the condition with new eyes. If you want to get informed and get involved, plug into the ARmindsMatter movement for mental health in our state. There’s extensive information and ways to join the movement at ARmindsMatter.org and on the #ARmindsMatter hashtag on social media.

[Add a short bio on yourself that the newspaper can run in attribution.]