Getting mandated health benefits for coverage of hearing aids for children, cognitive rehabilitation, and autism related speech-language and hearing services will be a state legislative effort so your state speech-language-hearing association will be involved. There are multiple steps a state association must take in order to implement a successful advocacy campaign. This section explains those steps, which follow.
Step 1: Determine the Agents for Change
The first step is to assess your association's potential to achieve its legislative goal.
- Consider the history of the issue. Has your state worked on this issue before?
- Do you have the support from key decision makers at the state level such as the governor and key legislators who have jurisdiction for your targeted legislation?
- Does your state association have a paid lobbyist with experience and knowledge on the issue?
- Does your state have a grassroots system in place to communicate with members? Is this a priority issue for your state association?
- Is the timing favorable for this legislation?
Step 2: Develop a State Action Plan
You will need to develop an organized plan or strategy. Identify an individual to chair or coordinate the campaign and a group of members to work with the chair. An effective state action plan will take 2-3 years. The components of a state action plan include:
- Legislative or regulatory activities: Learn the time frame for your legislative calendar and the legislative process; identify key leaders with jurisdiction for your bill; identify potential supporters and opponents.
- Key decision makers: Identify and meet with those who can influence the outcome of your effort. Determine your supporters as well as your opposition. Work with the staff or legislative aides of the decision makers.
- Grassroots activities: Organize constituents in your state to contact key groups that can help you achieve your goal. They can contact key decision makers through visits, phone calls, letters, and email. Letter-writing campaigns, providing testimony at public legislative and regulatory hearings, attending key policy maker meetings, raising funds for your political action committee (PAC), and campaigning for key elected officials are strategies to employ.
Step 3: Develop Roles for Advocacy Partners
The state association, its members, and lobbyist all have roles to play in any state advocacy effort. All parties should collaborate and work together. Establish an advocacy committee with a strong coordinator/chair who is willing and able to devote the time, energy, and commitment needed to sustain an effort.
Step 4: Launch a Grassroots Campaign
Your state initiative will benefit greatly if your state association formulates a focused grassroots advocacy plan and develops an organized grassroots network. Policy makers must hear from their constituents and the people directly impacted by the issue. Include parents or other consumers when appropriate. Prepare user-friendly information for your members for visits with policy makers. Develop talking points that are 1-2 pages long and include facts about your issue.
See also: Examples of ASHA's issue briefs with talking points
Step 5: Avoid the Pitfalls
Effecting change at the state level requires persistence and patience. You need committed volunteers and good communication among all advocacy partners. One common pitfall to avoid is having unclear state association priorities. Another is lack of leadership by the chair of your advocacy committee. Having limited follow through will also hamper the progress of your effort. Realize that although there may be peak activity times, such as during a legislative session, an advocacy effort continues throughout the year.
Introduction | Hearing Aids | Cognitive Rehabilitation | Autism Related Services | You Can Do It!