State associations will have a "go-to" person in the national office under a new outreach model designed to increase communication and collaboration between state speech-language-hearing associations (SSLHAs) and ASHA. Recently approved by ASHA's Board of Directors, the project divides the country into four geographical regions, with a national office staff advocacy team member assigned as the liaison in that region.
The liaison for each of the four regions—Northeast, South, Central, and West ( see map [PDF])—serves as the primary point of contact on state issues, helps facilitate communication and interactions between the state association and ASHA, assists SSLHAs with association management issues, and works with the state association leaders and members to advocate for policy and legislation that advance the interests of the members and the individuals they serve.
Members of the state advocacy team are contacting SSLHA leaders in their regions to discuss issues of concern in each state. Continued communication, including liaison visits to executive board meetings and other state meetings, will help ASHA gauge the needs of the state associations, develop action plans, and provide resources and technical support.
"Kansas is very excited about ASHA's new outreach model," said Dixie Heinrich, coordinator of the Kansas Speech-Language-Hearing Association (KSHA). "We have worked for two years with ASHA staff on a caseload/workload initiative in Kansas, so KSHA members are very aware of the benefits of the state liaison program."
In an initial conference call between the Kansas liaison and KSHA representatives, salary supplements were identified as a priority issue, as evidenced by member participation in an online bulletin board. "We then had a second conference call with members of the Kansas Task Force on Salary Supplement, KSHA officials, and the ASHA liaison," Heinrich said, a discussion that identified various issues and interests to be shared with colleagues. "The process begins!" she added.
The team is developing a number of new state-based resources including:
- Political action committee (PAC) manual. Developed as a Web-based resource by ASHA's PAC Board, this manual will help states create their own PACs. It includes information and guidance documents from SSLHAs that have already developed successful PACs.
- State leaders' e-zine. Patterned after other ASHA electronic newsletters, this periodic e-zine will help state leaders address issues of common concern and provide links to useful information on ASHA's Web site.
- New-member recruitment model. Created to help SSLHAs elicit increased participation and active involvement of SLPs and audiologists in state association activities, this series of templates will be available for direct mail and other membership promotions.
- Student outreach initiative. This initiative, adapted from a proposal by ASHA's Government Relations and Public Policy Board, is designed to help students:
– Learn about state legislation and regulation
– Contact elected representatives
– Take a proactive role on a local and state level in political areas relevant to the professions
– Develop governmental leadership and advocacy as part of their professional lives
- ASHA bookstore exhibit. Developed with ASHA's marketing team, an exhibit highlighting ASHA's products will be piloted at selected state association meetings to gauge interest and response.
- Meeting and convention resources and association management consultation services. Interested identified states may explore assistance from ASHA for meeting planning and association management and consultation services.
State advocacy team liaisons will help state associations explore their use of available resources to support advocacy efforts on legislative and regulatory issues, including:
- State leaders' Web resources. Developed for state leaders, this dedicated section on the ASHA Web site includes information on a variety of topics important for state leaders.
- Legislative and regulatory tracking. The state team monitors state legislative and regulatory changes and can research pertinent case law for interested SSLHAs.
- Grant program. Grants are awarded to state associations to assist their efforts on a variety of "hot" issues, including legislative and regulatory changes, personnel shortages, and increased reimbursement for speech-language and hearing services.
- Online grassroots advocacy resources. Launched as a pilot program, ASHA's online advocacy resources can help state associations to recruit greater numbers of grassroots advocates through online alerts and letter-writing campaigns to legislators.
- Grassroots advocacy training. Six state association leaders used this train-the-trainer Webinar in 2007, and it is available to other interested SSLHAs.
Finally, the ASHA Board of Directors approved revisions to the criteria for recognition of state associations, clarifying and enhancing the current recognition procedures. Specific changes to the affiliation agreement will be made available to each state association prior to the recognition renewal request.
ASHA state advocacy team members are eager to work more closely with state associations under this new collaborative model, and will be contacting state leaders to learn more about their specific issues. SSLHA officials are also encouraged to contact their ASHA liaisons.