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  1. Voices’ Youth Advocacy Day Recap

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    (Pictured above: Cohort members and Voices’ staff take a “before” picture before embarking on their legislative meetings.)

    “Keep going. Don’t ever stop. Don’t ever let anybody silence your voice. Don’t ever let you silence your voice. Understand the importance of what you do… Keep pushing, because one day it will really pay off.” – Jonathan, 15 years old, from Hampton, VA

     

    Our 2022 Advocacy Cohort completed their Youth Advocacy Day on Tuesday, January 18, 2022. Fifteen youth and young adults, ages 14 – 25, divided into four small but mighty groups to meet with fifteen policymakers (a combination of Delegates and Senators) throughout the afternoon. Advocates presented on key issues impacting themselves and their communities such as the state of youth mental health, improvements for the foster care system, needed supports and protections for LGBTIQIA+ youth, and equitable access to health coverage.

    “I talked about being trans and the discrimination that LGBTQ kids face in schools, and the fact that we endure so much… People are really hateful and spiteful and say horrible things… I’ve been asking for there to be some sort of set punishment and just understanding of why [these protections] are so important.” – Grace, 14 years old

    “Whether we’re fighting for health care or mental health services or more inclusive classrooms or more inclusive language or anything of that nature, my main thing was just making sure that we’re considering our young people every step of the way, because the choices that our policymakers and legislators make today, we’re gonna have to deal with tomorrow.” – Elijah, 14 years old

    Several cohort members and Voices’ staff meet with Del. Conyer

    (Pictured above: Several cohort members and Voices’ staff meet with Del. Conyer.)

    “Mental health is the same thing as your physical health. It’s just as important, if not more important, so we really need to prioritize that and make it so that everybody has equal opportunities.” – Aaliyana, 16 years old

    “I talked about how bullying is equated to hate crimes at the moment and how that’s just unacceptable because they are two very different things. I asked a lot of the people we spoke with to start building [more protective] systems into schools.” – Chanel, 19 years old

    Cohort members presenting to Sen. McClellan’s office with Voices’ Chief Policy Officer, Emily Griffey

    (Pictured above: Cohort members presenting to Sen. McClellan’s office with Voices’ Chief Policy Officer, Emily Griffey.)

    “There’s just a lack of help… because of language access. I also talked about health insurance and… the human right to just being able to access [medical and mental health treatment].” – Naomi, 17 years old

    Cohort members advocate for youth mental health support with Del. Delaney

    (Pictured above: Cohort members advocate for youth mental health support with Del. Delaney.)

    Advocates meeting with Sen. Mason’s offices with Voices’ Policy and Programs Director Allison Gilbreath

    (Pictured above: Advocates meeting with Sen. Mason’s offices with Voices’ Policy and Programs Director Allison Gilbreath.)

    Originally scheduled to be a series of in-person events and legislative meetings, the cohort quickly pivoted in response to the surge in COVID-19 cases and worked together to support and encourage one another throughout the virtual advocacy day. Cohort participants worked with Policy Team members to practice storytelling and connecting their experiences to policy and upcoming legislation.

    This group of changemakers left legislators and the Voices’ team completely inspired, moved, and awe-struck. We know their courageous storytelling is making incredible impact and we were honored and humbled to support them on their advocacy journeys.

  2. Mental health advocacy day was a huge success!

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    We had a great day in Richmond advocating for improvements to Virginia’s mental health system. Thanks to all who came to Richmond and made the day a success! The Campaign for Children’s Mental Health, Voices for Virginia’s Children and NAMI Virginia organized a legislative breakfast in the General Assembly Building. It was a chance for nearly 200 advocates to come together to share their experiences with their legislators. Quite a few legislators spoke to our advocates about their commitment to improving Virginia’s mental health system. In case you missed it, here is our handout on children’s mental health priorities.

    Legislators who stopped by the breakfast included Senator Favola, and Delegates Krupicka, BaCote, Watts, Plum, Dance, Futrell, Ingram, Morrissey, Bulova, DeSteph, Greason, Hodges, Keam, McQuinn, Yost, Filler-Corn, Taylor, as well as the legislative assistants of many others. Special thanks to Senator Howell and Delegate Yost who spoke about Mental Health Advocacy Day and welcomed advocates in the galleries during session.

    We also received media coverage of the day:

    Read coverage from the Daily Press and the Washington Post here.

    For those who attended, don’t forget to write a thank you note to the legislators or aides with whom you met. A hand-written note is most effective because it shows you took time, and it will stand out from all the other type-written letters they get. If you need to look up the contact info for your legislators, go here  for the delegates and here for the senators. Click on the their names to get their address at the Capitol. The address on the envelope should read, The Honorable John C. Watkins (for example), and the salutation on the letter should read, Dear Senator Watkins.

    It would be helpful to remind them briefly of the content of your conversation—at this point they may not remember that they met with you about children’s mental health! The handout on children’s mental health priorities is here to help you.

    For more pictures of the day, please go to the Campaign Facebook page!

    Above: Del. Vivian Watts talks about why sharing personal stories is important. Dels. Futrell, Dance and Hodges, along with advocates, listen.
     

     

  3. Report from Advocacy Day 2013

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    Thank you to all the advocates who attended Children’s Mental Health Advocacy Day last Thursday, January 24 at the Capitol! We had a wonderful turnout of folks from around the state despite having a little snow on the ground and bitterly cold temperatures. Family members, as well as public and private mental health providers, talked to their legislators about the importance of funding children’s crisis response services and child psychiatry.

    Legislators who stopped by the breakfast included Senators Hanger and Marsden, and Delegates Watts, Krupicka, Brink, Hester, Lopez, and Plum, as well as the legislative assistants of many others. We were also pleased to welcome Secretary of Health and Human Resources Bill Hazel and Commissioner of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services Jim Stewart.

    Thanks to Campaign steering committee partners the Virginia Association of Community Services Boards and National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) Virginia for their support.

    THIS IS THE FINAL WEEK of deliberations for the House Appropriations and Senate Finance Committees on their budget amendments; each chamber will release its budget on Sunday, February 3. Please email your legislators today (if you have not already) to tell them that increased funding for children’s mental health services should be a top priority!

    Here are some pictures from the legislative breakfast- click on them to get a better view!

    Ron Spears from Elk Hill and Linda Major from Hallmark Youthcare; Voices Executive Director John Morgan, Senator Emmett Hanger, and Malcolm King from the VA Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services; John Morgan, Campaign Coordinator Margaret Nimmo Crowe, Delegate Bob Brink, and VACSB Executive Director Mary Ann Bergeron; advocates Kandise Lucas and Pamela McMullen.

     

  4. Children’s Mental Health Advocacy Day

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    Join us January 24, 2013 in Richmond at the General Assembly for our 2nd annual Children’s Mental Health Advocacy Day!

    This is an opportunity to join the Campaign for Children’s Mental Health to bring attention to the needs of Virginia’s estimated 100,000 children and youth who have a serious mental health disorder. Your participation can really make a difference! We will provide talking points and advocacy tips– we just need you to come to Richmond and be willing to talk with your legislators. Not sure who they are? You can look them up online: click on “Who’s My Legislator?” at the top of the page.

    We will meet at the University of Richmond Downtown Campus , 626 E. Broad Street, at 8:30 a.m. for basic advocacy training and preparation for legislative visits.

    We will then walk to the General Assembly Building (at 9th and Broad) for a legislative breakfast highlighting children’s mental health issues at 9:30.

    After the breakfast, we will make individual and small group visits to our legislators.

    We will then return to UR Downtown for lunch and a debriefing of the visits.

    Please register to attend Children’s Mental Health Advocacy Day!

    Questions? Contact policy director Margaret Nimmo Crowe at margaret@vakids.org.