How to Educate Your Representatives about Teen Treatment in Four Easy Steps-Part 1

Oregon Capitol Building(This is the first part of a two-part post. Read the second post here.)
Last week, Laura Nissen of Reclaiming Futures and other experts on drug and alcohol treatment were invited to testify at a hearing by the Oregon State Senate Health and Human Services Committee. Legislators rarely get the chance to learn about adolescent substance abuse in depth, and this was a great opportunity to help them understand the problem -- and possible solutions.
You can do this, too. Here's how organizers made it happen in Oregon:

1. Gather your stakeholders. A statewide summit on adolescent treatment provided an excellent forum for bringing the right people together.

  • Several key co-sponsors helped with this event (listed here), and participants included a national expert in state adolescent treatment policy and interested policymakers. (Resources: our invitation, agenda, Oregon fact sheet, attendees, and recommendations.)
  • After the summit, stakeholders met to discuss how to implement the recommendations. It was clear that getting agencies statewide to adopt a policy on adolescent treatment would require buy-in from influential policymakers. One of our stakeholders, an Oregon senator, invited the group to present its findings at a hearing she planned to hold on adolescent substance abuse.

2. Decide on your messages. You don't want to present repetitive or contradictory testimony to legislators. It doesn't help you get your message across -- and it doesn't help them understand the issue. So spend extra time planning in advance of the hearing. Also be sure to review IRS rules about lobbying.

  • In a conference call about a month before the hearing, our group agreed on who would speak at the hearing and hammered out our key messages.
  • Two weeks in advance of the hearing, the speakers met to further refine their messages.
  • One week in advance of the hearing, everyone submitted their testimony in writing. The Senate committee required this material in advance; and it gave us a chance to catch any mistakes or inconsistencies.

To be continued ...

Updated: February 08 2018