Article in newspaper

Write a Letter to the Editor

Write a Letter to the Editor

The Recovery Advocacy Project (RAP) is committed to giving people of all pathways of recovery, family members, and supporters of recovery the grassroots organizing tools to think and act locally.

Many organizers have elevated the issues they are passionate about through the media with a Letter to the Editor to reach a larger audience and highlight solutions. 

This guide will assist in having your voice heard on the issues you care about. It may be helpful to review the HOW TO Effectively speak out as a Recovery Advocate guide to get some pointers around language prior to writing your Letter to the Editor.

The Recovery Advocacy Project recognizes the talents  of people in recovery and the expertise that many organizations provide across the country. This HOW TO Guide is one in a series written in partnership with the story-telling platform Bright Story Shine .

You may find that many counties, state agencies, or local organizations have already created one of these resources. In the spirit of collaboration and connection, find out if you can help update it, or recategorize into the areas listed below.

1. What is a letter to the editor?

A brief (no more than approx. 300 words), targeted message directed to media outlets like newspapers, magazines, or online news outlets and platforms.

2. Why write it?

Writing a letter to the editor is a way to directly engage with a larger audience to share your message. These letters are also a great way to bring awareness to recovery advocacy topics, influence public opinion, educate policymakers or promote the work you do in your community. 

Writing a letter to the editor can also be a strategic way to generate conversations about the recovery advocacy issues that are important to you.

3. Tips for a strong letter to the editor
  • Begin with greeting: “To the Editor” or it can also address the name of the editor if known.
  • Open with a sentence that grabs readers attention. Ask yourself, “what would captivate and engage me as a reader?”
  • Explain key points in the first paragraph: your “What”. The most effective letters are direct and to the point right off the bat. Since word count is limited, there is no need to make the reader wait.
  • Explain your “Why”: Why the issue is important to you and your community. Sticking to one topic is best. This is also the space to share a bit of your connection to recovery and why it is important to speak out. Again, it may be helpful to review this language guide for this component of your letter.
  • State opinion about what should be done about a particular issue. Be solution oriented.
  • Sign letter
4. What to avoid in your letter to the editor
  • Avoid bringing up or spending too much energy on the potential opposition’s point of view unless to quickly reference it with purpose or quick rebuttal.
  • Do not share your personal contact information in the letter like your address, email, or phone number. Be broad if you do (ex. I live in town/city/county) 
  • Avoid going over the word limit allowed. 
  • It is rare a letter is accepted by “Anonymous”
  • Make it brief! Usually, no longer than 300 words
  • Bring more attention to an issue or issues by strategically targeting multiple media outlets to send letters to around the same time frame.
  • Keep it relevant and timely!
  • Use urgent and confident language while making your case.
  • Introduce your main point early on in the letter
  • Stick to the guidelines provided by the media outlet
  • Your audience is the reader as much as it is the Editor.
  • If you are writing about an upcoming event or action your organization is taking, you may want to write a press release instead, or along with a letter to the Editor
  • Ask a friend, colleague, or someone in your network to read the letter prior to submitting it. Having someone’s feedback, and a spelling and grammar check, is important!
  1. Template to follow for your Letter to the Editor: https://www.naeyc.org/our-work/public-policy-advocacy/letter-editor-template
  2. Sample Letters to the Editor from the Recovery Community: Skye Boughman from the RAP Wisconsin Team wrote an excellent Letter titled Covid 19 Pandemic Puts Strain on Recovery Community

References:

Reading the news

Write a Media Advisory and Press Release

Write a Media Advisory and Press Release

The Recovery Advocacy Project (RAP) is committed to giving people of all pathways of recovery, family members, and supporters of recovery the grassroots organizing tools to think and act locally.

Many organizers have elevated the issues they are passionate about by drawing media intrigue and attention. 

The Recovery Advocacy Project recognizes the talents  of people in recovery and the expertise that many organizations provide across the country. This HOW TO Guide is one in a series written in partnership with the story-telling platform Bright Story Shine

Media Advisory and Press Release – What are they and When to Write Them

The main difference between a Media Advisory and a Press Release is your purpose for sending it. A Media Advisory is a brief, one-page informative invitation for media attendance at a particular event; while a Press Release is more like an article, that includes specific facts and quotes related to the topic with a goal of generating interest and awareness of your key issue by local or national media outlets. Sometimes a press release can, however, announce an event but it can also highlight other topics.

1. What to include
  • Use organization or business Letterhead if applicable
  • Title advisory (make it brief and creative, connect it to a trending topic or current event)
  • Include contact information in this example format:

Contact: R.A. Precovery

Phone: (123) 456-7890

Email: rap@email.com

2. Know your audience
  • Make sure that you write to a specific audience and keep this in mind (ex. are you writing to a local newspaper, online publication or TV station?)
  • Include Who, What, Where, When and Why
    • One of the most simple ways to structure the main section of your advisory is to list these questions and answer them in no more than 1-2 sentences. Include the most important and noteworthy details for each point (note that you can change the order of “who, what, where, when, and why” based on where the most important information is located
    • Note if this particular event will be an important photo-op or newsworthy story for them.
    • Include if any celebrities or influencers or other people in positions of power like politicians, community leaders, etc… will be in attendance.
    • For the “why” section: include concise information on why you are holding the event and why the media should attend. For example, you could explain that you are hosting a Recovery Month event to highlight recovery because addiction is often portrayed negatively in the news.
3. How to end the media advisory
  • Include “###” on the bottom line of your advisory to signify to the media outlet that this is the end of the advisory.
4. Planning Follow-up
  • Make sure to follow-up two business days before your event. 
  • Emailing and placing a phone call might ensure a response or attendance. 
  • Call the newsroom or office where you sent the advisory if placing a phone call. Sometimes calling before or after normal business hours will help with competing calls or inquiries.

The goal of a press release is to generate discussion and awareness of a particular issue. Below are some helpful templates for you to review. Notice how they’re structured, information they start and end with, and the formatting.

  1. https://fitsmallbusiness.com/how-to-write-a-media-advisory/
  2. https://www.naeyc.org/our-work/public-policy-advocacy/media-advisory-template

5. Components of a Press Release
  • Logo – optional 
  • Contact Information
  • Release Date
    • This notes when you want your release to be published or covered in media outlets. If it is ready to be distributed right away (which is recommended) include “FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE” at the top.
  • Headline
    • This is at the top center of the release. Keep it brief, catchy, and typed in 14-point, Times New Roman font and make sure it is centered.
    • Note that the headline should reflect the “why” of your release; why is it important for media to care about and cover?
  • Subheader
    • This is under the headline and no more than 120 characters (not words), this can further elaborate on the Headline.
    • Should be in 12-point font and italicized. 
  • Place Stamp and Date
    • Both location and date should be bolded and should look like this:
    • City, State. (Month Day, Year)-
  • Content of Press Release
    • First Body Paragraph – answers who, what, when, where, why, and how of the press release and to give an overall summary or quick picture so the media outlet can decide if they want to cover your story. Also, make sure to include the “angle” or why this story is newsworthy.
    • Body Paragraphs – should give more detail about why the story is important, using facts and quotes; note: you can use graphs and statistics, but make sure to use the AP Style Guidelines
  • Boilerplate
    • This is the final paragraph and is basically your organization’s “about” section that appears on the very bottom so you can provide a bit more information about your organization or group.
    • You can also provide a link to your website and social media accounts
    • End like the media advisory with “###” centered at the bottom of the page.
  • Keep it simple and brief!
  • Use Quotes – you can list a couple different quotes so journalists can choose which one they like best for their “human perspective angle”; make sure that quotes add-to and don’t just repeat the content you have already included; no more than approx. 20 words per quote.
  • Interactive Elements (this is optional): link videos or links to other sources or infographics
  • Use approx. 500 words and if your release is 2 pages in length, at the bottom center of the first page include: “-more-“
  • Share statistics and be sure to verify and include source/citation

References

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Organize a Virtual Recovery Town Hall Meeting

Organize a Virtual Recovery Town Hall Meeting

Defining a Virtual Recovery Town Hall Meeting:

Virtual Recovery Town Hall Meetings can be great alternatives to in-person Town Hall Meetings. Many advocates began using a virtual format using video tele-conferencing services as a response during COVID-19.

“Town Hall” style meetings are not necessarily defined by a physical location, but as an event in which a politician or public official answers questions from members of the public.

These digital forums provide a space where decision makers like elected officials can listen to those they represent and share remotely about solutions around a predetermined topic.

Virtual Town Halls can follow a similar format to in person Town Halls. Recovery Advocacy Project has published a HOW TO: Organize a Recovery Town Hall Meeting with Decision Makers  that is worth reviewing to get an idea of different formats you can follow for a Town Hall.

Let’s take a look at a few benefits to virtual Town Meetings.

10 Steps to Hosting a Virtual Town Hall Meeting

1. Decide on what video teleconferencing you want to use for your Virtual Town Hall and create an account.

There are a number of video platforms to choose from that would work for a Virtual Town Hall. Each has free versions with limitations, and also upgraded versions available for purchase that will make organizing easier as they include additional features. As you work with others to host your event, ask to see if anyone (or an organization*) has purchased any of these platforms with updated features.

Video Teleconferencing Platforms

Many recovery community organizers have had successful Virtual Town Hall meetings with Zoom, a teleconferencing platform.

Some of the features of Zoom that can be helpful in conducting your town hall include:

To set up a free zoom account visit www.zoom.us

A complete Zoom reference guide to scheduling, customizing, and running your Zoom meeting can be found here

The Zoom Support Page is here

Additional video platforms exist and can be used such as GoToMeeting and Google Meet but for the sake of this HOW TO, we will be focusing on Zoom. Feel free to browse these other options.

GoToMeeting www.gotomeeting.com

GoogleMeet www.gsuite.google.com/meet

  • • Practice with each Video Platform and familiarize yourself with the features they offer to see which will best fit your needs to organize your Town Hall.
  • • There are more Zoom features if you use it through a computer rather than a phone.
  • • Do test runs with family members or a coworker.
  • • There are additional Zoom tutorials and walkthroughs on YouTube if you wish to explore some more advanced features. 
2. Put together an Organizing Team that will help you plan and run your Virtual Recovery Town Hall Meeting.

Organizing a Virtual Recovery Town Hall Meeting will be much easier with a team of other individuals that care about the same issues you do and want to highlight solutions. This is also a great time to do some outreach to some like-minded organizations in your area and state to gauge their level of interest. Some organizations may commit to promote the town hall, provide speakers, join your organizing team, or assist in inviting elected officials or special guests.

A good sized team for this project would be 3-6 individuals.

We encourage you to add members to your Organizing Team that:

  • • Meet with your Organizing Team on the video platform you chose so everyone is comfortable with that platform.
  • • Keep the partnering organizations in the loop with the team’s progress. They should be able to assist you in promoting the event when the time comes.
  • • Assemble a committee that is diverse in recovery experiences. You may want to have a mix of recovery advocates, family members, addiction experts, and people with lived experience on the potential topic (Step 3) your team chooses.
  • • Ensure your team best reflects the makeup of your community/town/state.
  • • Develop a schedule to communicate with your team.
  • • Once your team is together, be sure to ask what people’s strengths are at your first planning meeting and their area of interest. This will help assign tasks as the organizing moves forward and will be a checklist to cover all your bases.  The team may even decide to split into smaller teams to play to individual strengths. For example, the committee could form a Promotion & Outreach Team, Media & Social Media Team, Technical Logistics Team etc.
3. Decide how big your “Town” will be & pick a topic for your Virtual Town Hall Meeting

When organizing a Virtual Town Hall it will be important to first discuss with your Organizing Team the size of your “Town”, or audience reach. This will also determine which elected officials you invite.

One of the benefits of doing the Town Hall through Video Teleconferencing is that you can expand beyond your community. Many Recovery Advocates have used Virtual Town Halls as an opportunity to reach people across their whole state.

Considering your audience reach and determining which Elected Officials to invite will become clearer if your Organizing Team chooses a topic.

When choosing a topic, consider some of the following criteria:

Some example topics for your Recovery Town Hall Meeting may include:

    • • Addressing the Addiction Epidemic
    • • Addiction Recovery Support Services
    • • Recovery for All
    • • Naloxone (Narcan) Saves Lives
    • • Many Pathways to Recovery
    • • Addiction as a Public Health Issue
    • • Understanding Harm Reduction
    • • Recovery from Addiction is a Reality
    • • Reducing Stigma around Addiction and Recovery
    • • Families for Addiction Recovery
    • • Medication Assisted Recovery
    • • Addiction Recovery and Reentry Services
    • • Science of Addiction and Recovery
    • • Recovery and Young People
    • • The Impact of Recovery Voters
    • • We are in Recovery, and We Vote
  • • Be sure that everyone on the team has a chance to be heard. Work to come to a consensus. Remember to keep any partnering organizations in the loop of your progress.
  • • Be sure to research your Decision Makers as much as you can to understand where they stand on the issues.
4. Decide on a date and time for your Virtual Recovery Town Hall

Based on the many events that have been organized all over the country by recovery advocates and organizations, the times that have had the most attendance had a Noon or 7PM start time on a weekday.

Be sure to schedule the event with enough time in advance to promote the event, gain media attention, and secure the invitees and selected advocate speakers. You and your Organizing Team should be able to plan a Virtual Town Hall in a little over a month if you meet weekly, but go at the pace that seems comfortable and realistic for the Team.

  • • The more town halls you organize the less planning time will have to go into each one. There are recovery organizations that actually host weekly Virtual Town Halls as a result of building experience and finding the right team.
  • • Many teams that have organized Virtual Town Halls have given attendees the option to join at two different times or two different days in order to reach a larger audience.  For example, your team may decide to host at Noon and again at 7PM to give people flexibility.
  • • Consider working to secure a date that you know your special guests can commit to. For example, you could have a State Representative or a Mayor agree to attend if it is held on a specific date.
5. Work with your team to create a detailed agenda for the Town Hall

Creating an agenda gives you and your team something to work backwards from. It also helps to show others you are organized, agree on the timeframe of the town hall, and highlight the purpose of the Town Hall.  For the time being, this step should be limited to just your team and potential speakers, but can be shared with the wider audience attendees closer to the event.

Here is a sample agenda:

    • 6:40 PM → Organizing Team and Special Guests join Zoom early to review the agenda and improve any technical aspects of the Virtual Town Hall.
    • 7:00 PM → All Remote Participants join Virtual Town Hall.
    • 7:00-7:10 → Moderator/Host/Facilitator welcomes Remote Audience, thanks partnering organizations, thanks Organizing Team Members, reviews technical aspects of Virtual Town Hall, acknowledges Special Guests and media on the meeting, and touches on the purpose of the Virtual Town Hall.
    • 7:10-7:25 → Elected Officials speak to topic.
    • 7:25 → Leave a short amount of time for moderator to respond then transition to Question & Answer portion of the Town Hall
    • 7:30 – 8:15 → Question & Answer Session between remote meeting attendees and Public Official(s)
    • 8:15 Virtual Town Hall event Call to Action!
  • • Most Town Hall events last between an hour to an hour and a half. If the event is too long, you may not get to the “call to action” portion of the event and you will see attendees drop off.
  • • Many speakers will go over the time allotted to them. For example, if your timeframe is for an Elected Official to talk for 7 to ten minutes, ask them to limit their introduction to 5 minutes.
6. Invite the appropriate Elected Officials

After your team chooses a topic and considers the reach of your remote audience, make a list of the appropriate elected official(s) to invite and their contact information. You should be able to find contact information like emails, phone, or mailing addresses.

If your topic is specific to a local matter in your community work to secure your Mayor, Chief of Police, city council, or their staff.

If the topic is broad and can reach a statewide audience consider inviting your state Senator, state Assemblyperson, the Governor, Attorney General, Health and Human Services Commissioner, or someone representing their offices.

Here is a sample invitation you can use as a guide.

  • • A Virtual Town Hall can work with just one elected official or it can be a panel of elected officials.
  • • In order to highlight the question and answer portion of the town hall it is suggested you don’t have more than 3-4 Elected Officials to answer questions. A smaller number of panel members is easier to organize and will keep you on time.
  • • You do not have to limit your invitations to elected officials. Many Recovery Town Halls have invited other public officials like members of boards of health, faith leaders, law enforcement, or education leaders.
  • • Make meaningful invitations that personalize why this Town Hall is so important to you and your team.
  • • You may have someone on your team that has an existing relationship with the elected official or staff.  Consider this in deciding who sends out the invitation.
  • • Be specific in what you are inviting the decision maker to do. (Ex. Be on a panel, Welcome the Community, Be a speaker, Honored Guest.)
  • • If you do not get the preferred invitee on your list, you can always ask the invitee that declined to send someone from their staff like an elected official’s staff member, or another Law Enforcement Officer. Many elected officials or law enforcement will have someone designated as a community or constituent liaison.
  • • Be persistent. Be sure to send an invitation and periodically follow up to relay how important this Virtual Town Hall is for the community via a telephone call.
  • • Use confirmed YES’s to build on the Virtual Town Hall and get other Decision Makers to come along. For example, “Representative Hernandez will be in attendance for this event, and we would like to get another elected officials like yourself to attend.”
7. Create a promotional tool for the event with an RSVP system.

One of the most effective promotional tools will be a digital flyer for the Town Hall.

This step will make other organizing steps a lot easier. Keep in mind, this promotional tool can change as your committee organizes (For example: In the event you confirm Decision Makers or additional partners, you may need to add logos for non-profit or local businesses to the promotional flyer)

The tool could begin with a simple “Save the Date” and evolve into a version with more details, logos, and confirmed Decision Makers.

Here is a simple example of a flyer the Recovery Advocacy Project – Nevada team used.

The promotional tool can serve many purposes for your virtual town hall, including:

    • • Promote on social media
    • • Get RSVPs
    • • Invite people through email
    • • Build the Audience
    • • Create excitement and word of mouth on the Virtual Town Hall
    • • Gain additional community partnerships
    • • Attract Public Officials
    • • Encourage and secure questions from Participants

The promotional tool should include the following:

    • • Topic of Recovery Town Hall (and any special guests) should be displayed in bold.
    • • Recovery Town Hall Details: Day/Date, Time event begins.
    • • Zoom information
    • • Ask for Questions to be submitted in advance
    • • Include any logos of local businesses or non-profits that you are partnering with.
    • • Have a contact email to answer questions about the Town Hall.
    • • Short description of the event including target audience
    • • Information on how to RSVP in an attached text to the flyer.
    • • Information on if the Virtual Town Hall is “Open to the Media” or not.

RSVP Options

Action Network

Recovery Advocacy Project can create an event using a great platform called Action Network to help with your RSVPs (which can work with Zoom links).

We can assist you in the RSVP process for your event by using this platform and can even help promote your Virtual Event in your state or surrounding community.

Email info@recoveryvoices.com and we will help.

2. Eventbrite

Eventbrite is a free tool that allows people to RSVP to a virtual event.

Having an Eventbrite link associated with the promotional tool for the Virtual Town Hall has many advantages that includes:

    • • Managing RSVPs to the event.
    • • You can upload the promotional tool (flyer) your team has created.
    • • The event also becomes locally searchable on the Eventbrite website.
    • • Allows the organizer to be notified when an attendee RSVPs.
    • • Automatic email reminder for anyone who RSVPs a day before the event.
    • • If capacity is limited at the event, Eventbrite allows the organizer to cap how many RSVPs are allowed.
    • • Gives your team a rough idea of how many people to expect. Keep in mind there will be some people that did not RSVP on Eventbrite that will attend, and there will also be people that RSVP on Eventbrite that do not end up attending.

Create a Facebook Event Page to boost your reach

For a step by step guide with pictures on how to set up a Facebook Event go here

Creating a Facebook Event Page has many advantages including:

    • • Uploading the Promotional Tool (Flyer) your team created for the event
    • • Creates buzz on social media.
    • • Allows those you invite to RSVP YES, NO, or MAYBE to attending the event
    • • Will remind the MAYBE and YES invitees prior to the event.
    • • When someone RSVPs yes it will show that individuals Facebook friends that they are attending. This can boost the attendance.
    • • You can invite selected or entire friend lists to the Virtual Town Hall, or create a larger list by allowing invites to ‘friends of friends’
    • • Allows your team to answer any questions about the event.
    • • Allows your team to highlight any special guests or confirmed speakers at the event.
    • • Builds a network and interest for future events you may organize.

The entire Organizing Team and partnering organizations should all work to invite locals on their Facebook Friends list.

NOTE: It is always good practice to have all your registrants located in a single place and have access to their contact information if possible so you or another member of your planning team can confirm attendance via email, text, or a phone call. If you create an event on Eventbrite there is an easy way in the “promotions” tab to automatically link your Eventbrite event to Facebook events. If you setup event registration through Zoom, Action Network, or a landing page, it’s not always best to create a second event on Facebook. Instead, share the link to where people can register.

  • • Nothing beats a personal invite. Come up with a plan with your Team to build your base of attendees.
  • • Make sure all of your RSVP tools have the same Zoom Link information for people to join.
  • • You may want to have one person in charge of RSVP. For example, put “Email ExampleAdvocate@gmail.com to RSVP to this event” so that one of your Team members in in charge with running the RSVP and can email the zoom link privately to anyone that RSVPs. This keeps the Town Hall link information to only those who register and will allow the registrar to give the participants passwords for the Zoom Call.
  • • You may have someone on your team that is good with graphic design or event promotion already. Chances are, someone on the committee will know someone that is good with promotional tasks. Invite that person to join the team or see if they will assist.
  • • Many Recovery Advocates have made Video promotional tools as well to register more participants on social media. This can be a great way to share a recovery experience or convey the urgency of the Town Hall meeting.
  • • Your promotional tool may go through a few versions in the event your committee confirms additional Decision Makers/ partners for the Recovery Town Hall.
  • • Include images and bright colors on your promotional tool to catch people’s attention.
8. Choose your Event Moderator & Call to Action

Choose a moderator that is good at facilitating discussions, is familiar with recovery, can keep speakers in timeframe, inspires others, and is known in the community. You can add the moderators name to the promotional flyer.

Choosing a Call to Action will be important for your remote audience. Nothing is more frustrating for participants than having a long discussion with no purpose. The action gives a purpose to the Virtual Town Hall.

Consider the topic and assign a Call to Action.  Some actions may include:

    • • Letter Writing Campaign
    • • Rallying/Action Event
    • • State House Advocacy Day sign-up
    • • Petition/Support Statement on an issue

Many of these Calls to Action can be created on Action Network and coordinated with your Recovery Advocacy Project State Lead(s), or contacting the RAP team by emailing info@recoveryvoices.com

To see some sample digital actions go to the Recovery Advocacy Project Action Network.

Each state has its own Action Network Page to create actions, and those tools are available to you as a community organizer and your event Organizing Team.

9. Outreach to Traditional Media

Building relationships with local media can take time. Getting local media to cover your event reaches an audience outside the event itself.

Here are a few steps to take that will increase the potential of media turnout.

  1. Create a list of local media outlets – (Be sure to update this list as much as possible moving forward, as outlets change. List should include:
    • • Local TV
    • • Radio ( www.radio-locator.com is searchable by area and genre like news, public radio, talk etc)
    • • Local News Websites
    • • Blogs (Health, Current Events, Criminal Justice)
    • • Newspapers (County/city/town) www.usnpl.com is searchable by location.
  2. Identify appropriate contact for each media outlet and craft a “Media Advisory” you can send to each contacts email.
    • • Journalists are often assigned an area of expertise. You should be able to find the right media contact by searching for past articles on addiction, health, or community events
    • Here is a sample media advisory from a recovery community organization in Georgia.
  3. Pitch a human interest story
    • • Contact your list of journalists with event information with a human interest story. Personalize each greeting to attempt to build a relationship with that media contact.

    • • A good human interest story could potentially be one of your speakers for the event, a local advocacy effort, or a response to something the journalist covered in a past media piece.

    • • Your correspondence should cover why they should attend the Virtual Town Hall, the human interest story, and a contact for more information. You, or someone on your team should be a designated contact for media.

    • • Your Organizing Team may option to offer a trusted media contact the Facilitator role.

Here are a few articles to read that have additional pointers on getting local media.

  • • Be sure to put “Open to the Media” on the promotional flyer so attendees and media are all aware.
  • • Earned Media is something that is built over time. information for people to join.
  • • Be patient and build media relationships.
10. Preparation:

The more prepared your team is the better. Below are some tips so you can be best prepared and run a flawless Virtual Town Hall.

Virtual Town Hall Preparation Tip Sheet:

(Check the boxes to learn more)

Send reminders to both the registrants and your panelists / presenters. This step is crucial and illustrates why it is important to collect basic registration information from participants if possible.

Make sure to have clear and consistent  communication with your Public Officials, potential speakers asking questions, and your team in the days before the Virtual Town Hall.

Crowdsourcing questions invites participation. This will also allow the moderator to have a few questions prepared for the Public Officials, avoid awkward silences, and will break the ice to make participants comfortable in asking their own questions.

You can organize ahead of time to have some pre-submitted questions the moderator asks, some questions by pre-screened advocates to ask, then question on the fly from the remote audience. You can even send advocates that are willing to ask their questions live this link to help them shape their question with recovery friendly language from this HOW TO: Speak out as a Recovery Advocate

Trial runs with your Team (and one for Public Officials) before the actual Town Hall is smart and shows your team is organized. Each Team Member should have some sort of role during the meeting whether it is technical, introductions, or calls to action.

Make sure all speakers have good WiFi to avoid connection problems.

Encourage all in the trial run to use headphones for better audio, check for appropriate lighting, and consider non-distracting video background. You can also determine who the Zoom Cohosts will be to.

Decide whether it is helpful or distracting to have the chat option of Zoom open to all participants. Some people may be more comfortable submitting their questions in the chat as opposed to speaking at the town hall. You may want to limit chat duties to the hosts to avoid distractions. You can go either route.

Look into livestreaming the Virtual Town Hall meeting on other platforms like Facebook Live to reach a larger audience. Many conferencing and webinar softwares, like Zoom, have this option. Remember that depending on which conference software you’re using, you may also need to be monitoring both the chat and the comments coming in on the other platform.

During the Virtual Town Hall Tips:

There is also a live polling experience you can do with PigeonHole Live which is worth looking into here

If you find it helpful, you can make a copy and/or print the Virtual Town Hall Checklist here.

Image of legislature

Advocate for a Bill to become State Law

Advocate for a Bill to become State Law

Part of the goal of the Recovery Advocacy Project is to build an educated and outspoken constituency that work towards community and legislative solutions around the addiction crisis.

Understanding the legislative process is central to making progress towards this goal. Please note that the process described below is for State Legislature and a Governor (However, it can also apply to federal legislation with Congress and the President)

Before you begin

Before we go right into How a Bill becomes a Law, it is important you do some basic research prior to your advocacy efforts. You can use this checklist below to point you in the right direction. If you find it helpful to print this checklist and work with a paper copy, you can find a PDF of this checklist here.

For the purposes of this guide you will want to know who your STATE Representative(s), STATE Senator, and Governor are. Depending on which state you live in you may have multiple elected officials in your state legislature that represent you. This step may come in handy in other parts of the process.

The easiest way to do this is to input your address here

https://www.commoncause.org/find-your-representative/addr/

Only ten states have a full time legislature that meets throughout the entire year, therefore you will have to research what time(s) of year your state legislature meets. Some states even meet only every other year.

Start your research here to see if your state is in session. The website is searchable by state and year.

https://ballotpedia.org/Dates_of_2020_state_legislative_sessions

All bills begin with an idea whether is comes from an organization, member of the public, or legislator. If you have an idea for a potential law one day, you can work with your own legislator to have it introduced, or with a legislative champion around that issue. If your bill has already been introduced in the past (or current) you can research by the bill number assigned where the bill is in the legislative process.

Begin your research by googling your state name and “legislature”

Most Legislative pages are searchable by topic or bill number. For example, here is an example of Minnesota’s State Legislative Page https://www.leg.state.mn.us/leg/legis

If the bill already exists, work to research any organizations in your state that may be supporting it and reach out to see how you can get involved.

You can begin your research by searching online for advocacy groups in the state that may have worked on similar issues like mental health grounds, recovery community organizations, harm reduction organizations, prevention networks, or other public policy groups. For example, you can reach out to them and ask which state Legislators may be leaders around addiction, health, or criminal justice, depending on what you are advocating for. These Legislative Champions on issues may end up being co- sponsors or key supporters on the bill you are working on.

This step will prepare you in knowing who to contact when your Bill is assigned a committee (More on this in the ‘How a Bill becomes a Law’ section. The political party that currently holds the majority of seats in each legislative body also hold the chair positions of committees, and controls what may come up for a vote to be moved out of committee (More on this in the ‘How a Bill becomes a Law’ section).

This list can help you predict any opposition to the bill and give you a strategy to counter it if it arises. Some common barriers may be costs to what your bill proposes, stigma, political party opposition, and disinformation about what your bill does.

This step is important for a number of reasons. It can help you to share with decision makers why the bill is important, garner community and organizational support, craft a message, recruit other advocates to the issues, shape future testimony for the bill, and help write some talking points to anyone who wants to help advocate with you.

This process is much easier with a network of Recovery Advocates. Here are some suggestions to help you build your grassroots base.

  • Contact the Recovery Advocacy Project to work with a RAP State Lead/Regional Lead info@recoveryvoices.com This can also help any digital efforts you may have in the future. Each state has a digital Action Network they can mobilize when you want to contact elected officials.
  • Research organizations in your state that may be like minded. Depending on the bill you are working on you may find support in recovery community organizations, prevention groups, student groups, family groups, criminal justice advocates, mental health organizations, or prevention networks. Make contact and ask their level of involvement.
  • Make social media posts about the bill you are advocating for and ask people to contact you directly.
  • Research existing coalitions in your state. Contact them with your idea/bill support.
  • Identify other key advocates in your area/state.  Some of these advocates may be vocal online.  Reach out to them about the bill you are interested in and get their take on it.

You can also read this other Recovery Advocacy Guide: HOW TO Build your Advocacy Base.

Step by Step Guide to How a Bill Becomes Law in Your State

1. Bill Gets Drafted:

All bills start with an idea. That idea can even come from you.

State Legislators, your Governors’ Office, outside groups, and constituents like yourself are all able to initiate drafting a bill to potentially become law. You will have to determine the best route in getting a bill drafted. You may find it easier to work with your elected official or organization but both will likely end up working with the state Office of Legislative Services.

Many states have an Office of Legislative Services (OLS) that helps to draft language for a bill. If you are starting from scratch in drafting, it will be worth contacting your state OLS to get pointed in the right direction.  Search online to find your State OLS.

Here is an example of a state’s Office of Legislative services https://www.njleg.state.nj.us/legislativepub/oview.asp

2. Finding a Bill Sponsor:

Your bill may already have a Sponsor if it was introduced in the past. If your bill is beginning from scratch you will need to find a prime Sponsor.

Only members of the state legislature can introduce the bill. You can ask your own Elected Official to be that Sponsor. Contact their office to see if they will work with you on the Bill and become the Sponsor.

If they will not work with you, identify a Legislative Champion on the topic you are advocating for and reach out to them.

Things to keep in mind when determining who to ask to Sponsor your bill include political party, strength on the issue, and what committee’s they sit on. Most addiction bills go through committees such as Health and Wellness, Public Safety, or Human Services depending on the content of the bill.

The bill’s Sponsor can also get co-sponsors.

The role of the advocates here is to develop a strategy in encouraging the best support from other co- sponsors. It can help if the bill is bipartisan. You can ask organizations and other advocates to contact those potential co-sponsors.

 

3. Introduction of Bill:

Only members of the state legislature can introduce the bill. The bill Sponsor will make that introduction to the chamber. This is when the bill is assigned a number, has a first reading, and is assigned to a committee (by the majority party leader)

There is no specific role as an Advocate here because only members of the legislature can introduce the bill.

4. Committee Consideration and Action

The committee process is where most bill get stuck so your work as an advocate here is crucial. The committee can make amendments, set the bill aside without a consideration, or vote on the bill to go to the entire legislature with or without a recommendation, or vote on it to be passed to another committee.

Your role as an advocate here is to work with the Sponsor, Chairpersons and committee members to encourage a vote.  Work with the Sponsor and chairpersons to let you know when there will be a hearing on the bill so you and others can testify.

Please review HOW TO Give Effective Public Testimony

Please share that HOW TO guide with other advocates and ask them to share their related stories and experiences in testimony for the bill. You can also organize written statements from individuals and organizations and submit them at the committee hearings.

Many states have a legislative tracker that announce important dates like public testimony days. It is important to also recognize that hearings can often be during workdays and do not always have advanced notice so you and your supporters will have to be on top of your game.

5. Floor Action

Once the bill is out of committee it will get a second reading. The bill will get a date to be debated and the entire chamber debates the bill and can make amendments.

The role of the advocate here is to encourage organizations and your supporters to contact their legislators and encourage support of the bill.

The bill will then be scheduled for a vote where it will have a third reading. If a majority of the votes are in favor of the bill, it goes to the state Senate, where a companion bill will be introduced.

6. Senate Sponsor

Work with the Sponsor of the bill to secure Senate Sponsors. They will have recommendations for you on who some ideal Sponsors will be.

The role of the advocate here is similar to the support generated in the first chamber through advocates continuing to contact their elected officials (State Senators)

7. Introduced in Senate

A Senator introduces the bill, which is sent to a committee and goes through the same process it did in the other chamber.

The role of the advocates here is the same as it was for the other chamber in terms of testifying in front of committees to support your bill, where it will then stall in committee, be voted out of committee (it can be amended) and on for a vote to the entire Senate where the majority leader will call for the senate to consider the bill.

If a majority vote in favor of the bill if goes back to the original chamber.

8. Conference Committee:

If there are differences in the bills due to amendments made, the bill goes into Conference Committee of Elected officials from both chambers to compromise on the language differences and that bill is sent to each chamber for approval.

9. Governor’s Action:

In this last step the Governor can take one of four actions:

    • • Sign the Bill into Law (Pass it into Law)
    • • Veto the Bill entirely (Reject it)
    • • Line-item Veto (veto parts of the bill)
    • • Pocket Veto (Takes no action and effectively delays the bill until it is too late to be dealt with during that Legislative session.)

If the bill is vetoed by the Governor, the veto can be overridden by the Legislature with a 2/3rds majority of each legislative chamber to become law.

The role of the advocates here is to make phone calls to the Governor’s office (or letter writing/email campaigns). The more contact to the Governor’s office in this timeframe the better of a chance to show that there is constituent support. Use social media and existing organizations in your state to encourage calls.

We hope this piece of the Advocacy Guide is helpful. We want to remind you to stay focused and empowered throughout this process. Please reach out to other advocates and organizations and build a base both for moral support and consistent encouragement.

The road to a legislative victory can be long but when the bill gets signed into law it is absolutely worth the effort you put into it.

Thank you for checking out the Advocacy Guide and feel free to pass it on to others.

NY of COVID-19 Virtual Town Hall Event Banner 3

New York Town Hall

Town Hall

May 13

7 - 8:30 p.m

Join this virtual town hall to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the recovery community and updates to the Purdue Pharma opioid bankruptcy.

Wednesday, May 13

7:00 - 8:30 p.m.

The New York Recovery Advocacy Project (NY-RAP) will be hosting its first virtual town hall on May 13th. Due to the critical nature of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York, and its effect on our community, we urge members of the recovery community statewide to participate in this discussion. Among the matters that will be discussed will be updates on the Purdue Pharma opioid lawsuit and bankruptcy case. It is vital that the money that is being offered in reparations for what has happened is being used to support our community’s needs.

The current COVID-19 health crisis has presented a wide-range of challenges to people in and those seeking recovery from addiction and mental health disorders. As a resilient community, we must come together to focus on solutions and how we will get through this trying time together. This is why WE NEED YOU!

Join this virtual town hall to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on the recovery community and updates to the Purdue Pharma opioid bankruptcy.

Confirmed Panelists

Ed Neiger

Lawyer to Ad Hoc Committee of Personal Injury Claims

Megan Hetfield

Our Wellness Collective and Harm Reduction Works

Garrett Hade

Lead Organizer, Recovery Advocacy Project
Co-Chair Victims of Purdue Ad Hoc Committee

Join the discussion on Zoom

The Recovery Advocacy Project (RAP) is a robust network of people and organizations across our country advocating for addiction recovery policies and political platforms. RAP is committed to giving people in recovery, family members, and supporters of recovery the grassroots organizing tools so together we can advance recovery in our communities. RAP is working to build a visible and effective constituency in demand of community and public policy-based solutions in response to our country’s long-standing addiction crisis.

This conversation will impact the work that we all do to support New Yorkers in all stages of recovery. You are welcome to RSVP and join the upcoming town hall on Zoom.

Registered attendees will have the opportunity to submit questions live during the town hall.

For questions

Michael Galipeau

michgalipeau@gmail.com

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