2020 Annual Children and Adult Mental Health Advocacy Day


Feb 5, 2020


8:30 am – 12:30 pm


University of Richmond Downtown- Lower Level Multipurpose Room
626 East Broad Street
Richmond , VA 23219

Due to Capacity, Registration is closed 

Voices for Virginia’s Children, NAMI Virginia,  Mental Health America of Virginia, VOCAL and SAARA have joined forces to organize the 2020 Children and Adult Mental Health Advocacy Day.

Join fellow mental health advocates on February 5th for a breakfast followed by an opportunity to speak directly with legislators about the importance of reforming our mental health system in Virginia. View Voices children’s mental health policy priorities here.

The goal of advocacy day is to bring both the decision makers and the individuals who utilize the mental health care system to the same table in order to encourage authentic engagement.

Please view important event logistics here!

2020 Mental Health Advocacy Day: Registrant Information

Your Guide to a Successful Visit to the Virginia General Assembly!

Important addresses for Advocacy Day:

  1. Coalition Headquarters: University of Richmond Downtown Building – 626 E. Broad St. Richmond, VA 23219
  2. General Assembly Building: The Pocahontas Building – 900 E. Main Street Richmond, Virginia

Plan Ahead:


Learn about the Coalition partners and their issues:

Review the Coalition’s legislative talking points for the day. These will be provided by email to you by Friday, January 31st. Once received, familiarize yourself with the issues. Don’t worry, you don’t have to be an expert on the particulars! Your expertise is your personal story, your passion, and your drive for change. Talking points will be available for pick up at the Coalition Headquarters on Advocacy Day. The Coalition will also be providing a webinar prior to Advocacy Day to provide an overview and insight on the talking points and how they relate to our joint legislative priorities. Information on this opportunity will be sent soon.

Plan and rehearse what you will say to your legislators, or to their aides, when you visit them. If you don’t know what to say, start by answering some of these questions for yourself or your family. What is your story? What is working well in your community for mental health that you want the legislators to know about? What needs to be improved? What can the legislator do about it? What helpful suggestions do you have? Once you receive the Coalitions key priorities, see if your story can highlight the need for or the success of one of the priorities. You are welcome to put your remarks in writing to leave with your legislators. A short letter (no more than one page) is best. Make sure to include your contact information so they can follow up.

Dress to impress, but also remember to make it comfortable for walking and to withstand the cold. Avoid items with metal to save yourself time accessing building with metal detectors.

A parking deck is located adjacent to the building on 7th Street between Broad and Marshall Streets. Street parking, metered parking, and other parking decks are conveniently located on nearby streets.

There will be significant walking involved with Mental Health Advocacy Day so please be prepared. If you need assistance, there will be transportation available between the Coalition Headquarters and the Pocahontas building. If you know you will need this assistance, please alert us in advance or during the day at ???

Final Mental Health Advocacy Day information will be provided to you on Friday, January 31st and additional updates the week of Advocacy Day including legislative priorities and meeting times. Please make sure to be checking your email during those days and planning accordingly. If anything changes and you are unable to attend, please contact sfontaine@namivirginia.org.

Consider packing a thank you card to fill out and leave after you’re your meeting. This is a nice touch that will help them remember you and your message.

During Advocacy Day:

  1. Depending on when your group is slated for appointments, make sure to arrive on time or early for that indicated time. Give yourself plenty of extra time to find parking, walk to meet us, and time to connect with Coalition volunteers. If you are running late, please alert our registration volunteer at 804-396-0148. Please note, this number will only be in use for Advocacy Day on the 5th, if you have additional questions in advance of Advocacy Day, please reach out to Sophie at sfontaine@namivirignia.org or 804-285-8264 x202. Although we would like to have you join us first at Coalition Headquarters, you may need to go straight to the General Assembly building depending on your estimated arrival time and your scheduled appointment. If that is the case you will be alerted in communication closer to the date.
  2. We will do our best to provide an Advocacy Day Leader to attend each appointment to help facilitate the conversation. Coalition volunteers will connect you to this person once you sign in at registration. This person, or any Coalition volunteers can assist you with questions you may have. You can identify a Coalition volunteer by their nametag. Make sure to stick close to your meeting group so you can leave together to the Pocahontas Building. Appointments will last for about 15 minutes each.   Before you leave, consider bringing extra copies of the talking points to leave with your personal legislators if your meeting is not with one of them.
  3. Appointments have been set with the legislative members of three important Senate and House committees to maximize our efforts in numbers. The appointment you attend may not be your own legislator, but likely someone in your group. Please remember, although we have made appointments, legislators may need to cancel at the last minute or shorten a meeting due to pressing issues related to legislation they are sponsoring or supporting. If this happens you will likely meet with a member of their staff. This is still a valuable opportunity as the legislator often relies on these individuals to help them capture important information. It does occasionally happen that no staff is available for conversation, even with an appointment. Please remain respectful and work with your Advocacy Day Leader to leave talking points and sign the guest book.
  4. Depending on your appointment time, you will likely find yourself with additional time on your hands before our 11:15 meeting on the steps of the Capital. If so, please consider visiting your personal senator and delegate, if they were not part of the initial meeting. You can find their names and contact information here. Below are some suggested activities to pursue with your legislators, and we encourage you to consider doing all three activities outlined below. You are also welcome to come back to the Coalition Headquarters or find a seat at the Pocahontas Building (some seats can be found on each floor and Senate Room A is usually free in the afternoon, which is located on Floor G.
  5. Stop by your legislator’s offices to ask if they have a moment for a short (unscheduled) meeting with them, their legislative aid, or another member of their staff. If you get one, make sure to provide them with a copy of the Coalition talking points. If no one is available, leave talking points with their Administrative Aid.
  6. Ask to sign their guest book. There will be room to leave a small message and you can use this to impress them of an issue you wish them to remember from the talking points, such as ‘fund STEP-VA’.
  • Call your legislators to leave a short supportive message conveying Coalition talking points.

At 11:15 make sure to join us on the steps of the Capital Building for a full coalition picture. If you’re not sure where to go, call the Coalition point person at 804-396-0148.

  1. After the picture, you have two options. Head home OR go to the Capital to sit in the Senate or House Gallery to hear and see the legislators in action. This is a great experience for all! We will have a legislator from each introduce us in the Gallery and our advocacy day to remind all legislators that mental health (and co-occurring or substance use disorder) matter! Please note, this is a long walk, mostly indoors with some stairs, under the Capital. If you are not able to walk or stand for long distances, we might advise avoiding this activity. There is limited seating in the Gallery, and you may be asked to wait in a side room until someone vacates a seat to get inside. Should this happen, there are seats and a screen projecting activities so you can still follow along. If you wish to join the Gallery groups, follow volunteers after the picture at the Capitol steps.