Advocates for mental health can and do make a difference! Become an advocate today! All it takes is the passion to inspire change in your community.
By educating the public and our legislature, you can change the way people think and talk about mental health/illness and help to shape new laws and policies affecting us all.
Whether you have been touched personally by mental illness or know someone who has, we hope you will join us in working for sound, recovery-oriented mental health policies. This page will give you the tools and information you need to advocate effectively!
Maryland General Assembly
Maintained by the General Assembly’s Division of Legislative Services, this site provides a series of searchable databases, including the Maryland Code, recently enacted statutes, proposed legislation, information about Senate and House proceedings, notices of upcoming hearings, a directory of legislators, and a mechanism for making e-mail contact with legislators.
Find Your Legislators
This site provides links to find your state and federal elected officials. Information provided shows current elected officials and current Congressional & Legislative election district.
Maryland Statewide Directory
Looking to contact a specific state employee or office? Here you can search by employee or agency.
The Legislative Process
One of the primary duties of the Senate and House of Delegates is to pass laws necessary for the welfare of Maryland’s citizens. This is done through the passage of legislative bills, which can amend existing laws or create new laws. This link provides a detailed description of that process.
Glossary of Terms and Abbreviations
Mental health advocacy can be confusing. It seems like there is an acronym for everything! This glossary is designed to help you identify key parties and services and better understand some of the terms used by state officials and advocates alike.
Basic Rules of Effective Advocacy
When advocating for your cause, you have several options at your disposal. Whether you’re advocating by phone, letter, or in person, there are things you can do to improve your chances of success. Just remember, however you choose to communicate with your elected officials, always be courteous, considerate and honest.
Lobbying by Phone
A phone call is a quick and easy way to convey your position to a legislator. Your call will be most effective if you remember these helpful hints:
- Identify yourself by name, address and hometown (if within the official’s legislative district).
- Identify the bill by name and number.
- Briefly state your position and how you would like your legislator to vote.
- Ask for your legislator’s view on the bill or issue.
- Thank your legislator and/or their staff for taking your call.
- If your legislator requires further information, supply it as quickly as possible. The legislative cycle moves extremely fast during the session.
- If you speak with an aide but would like to discuss the bill more fully with your legislator, ask that your message and phone number be relayed to your legislator and that your call be returned. Even if you are not able to speak directly with your legislator, the message will be relayed and can only add to the overall impact of your lobbying effort.
- If you do not have your legislator’s Annapolis phone number, call the General Assembly switchboard and ask to be connected with your legislator’s office.
From Baltimore/Annapolis area: 410-946-5000
From Washington area: 301-970-5000
From elsewhere in Maryland: 1-800-492-7122
Lobbying by Letter or Email
Written advocacy can be a very effective form of communication. However, legislators often receive hundreds of letters and emails each week. Here are some tips to make your letter stand out:
- Type or write legibly.
- Include your full name and address so that your legislator can respond. Include a phone number so the legislator can contact you if he/she wishes to discuss the issue with you.
- Do not begin on a self-righteous note (e.g. “As a citizen and a taxpayer…”)
- Limit your letter to one bill or issue. Refer to it by name and number.
- Make clear what your position is and what action you want your legislator to take.
- Use your own words. Do not use stereotyped phrases and sentences from form letters.Your own personal experience is the best supporting evidence.
- Tell your legislator how the issue affects you, your family, clients, organization, profession, or your community.
- If you are working with others on the issue, or if you are otherwise active in the community, say so. Do not say you belong to a specific political or lobbying organization, since this may detract from the apparent spontaneity of your letter.
- Be reasonable. Do not seek impossible things or threaten. Do not say “I will never vote for you if you do not do this.”
- After you have told your legislator where you stand, ask your legislator to state his/her position in reply.
- Thank the legislator for considering your request. Much of the mail received by delegates and senators is from displeased constituents; a letter complimenting your legislator will be remembered favorably the next time you write.
- Write to each legislator individually. Do not send photocopies of a letter to other legislators.
- Address your legislator properly:
The Honorable John Smith Dear Delegate Smith: Dear Delegate Smith:
Lowe House Office Building
Annapolis, Maryland 21401
State Senator: The Honorable Jane Smith Dear Senator Smith:
James Senate Office Building
(or Miller Senate Office Building)
Annapolis, Maryland 21401
Lobbying by Personal Visit
Personal face-to-face contact may be the best way to advocate for your cause. If you choose to travel to Annapolis to meet with your legislator in person, consider the following:
- Call ahead to arrange an appointment. If an appointment cannot be scheduled, ask when the legislator is normally in the office and be there at that time.
- Begin on a positive note. Thank your legislator for taking the time to meet. Mention if you are a constituent.
- Always be courteous when dealing with your legislator. Be firm in discussing the issue, but do not become argumentative or try to force your legislator into changing his/her position or committing to a position if he/she clearly does not want to do so.
- Be a good listener. Let your legislator ask questions as you go along, and answer them with facts and understanding.
- Be clear about your position and what you would like your legislator to do. Identify the bill under discussion by name and number whenever possible.
- A short written statement of your position can be presented to your legislator to explain what the bill does and why he/she should support your viewpoint.
- Never give inaccurate information. It is far better to tell a legislator, “I do not know but will find out and get back to you.” Your credibility (and the legislator’s if he/she uses the misinformation) is at stake. Be sure to follow up with the complete set of facts.
- Ask your legislator how he/she plans to vote. Once you have presented your case, try to get a commitment. If he/she is uncertain, ask if more information would be helpful and be sure to follow through.
- A thank you letter after the meeting is important and it gives you another chance to make your pitch.
- If you cannot meet with your legislator, meet with an aide. Legislative staffers are important sources of information and may have substantial influence in the design, drafting and passage of legislation.