gabriel-benois-qnWPjzewewA-unsplash-optimize

Organize a Virtual Recovery Town Hall Meeting

Organize a Virtual Recovery Town Hall Meeting

  • This step-by-step HOW TO provides a guide to organizing your own virtual event, tip sheets and a checklist. Recovery Advocacy Project would be more than happy to assist you in your process. Please contact info@recoveryvoices.com to let us know about your organizing.

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.

  • Easier to reach a broader audience that expands past your “town”
  • Allows for outreach to organizations and potential for new partnerships around the issues you care about.
  • These meetings can translate to positive change in local policy, practices, and also improve collaborations that help those directly impacted.
  • Facilitating and moderating the discussion can be easier with the tools on some of these Video Tele-Conferencing Services like Zoom.
  • Easier for decision makers to commit and “attend”.
  • Potential for mass invitations through email.
  • Easily promoted on Social Media Sites.
  • Attract new recovery advocates.

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:

  • Video or Telephone Call in Options for each participant.
  • Shareable Link and/or meeting ID to Join the Zoom event.
  • Control to Mute/Unmute participants
  • Screen Share Options for Host
  • Breakout Rooms
  • Password option to enter the Event
  • Chat Feature Option for Participants
  • Recording Option
  • Virtual “Raise Hand” option to help the discussion.

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:

  • Represent a diverse community.
  • Are passionate about the issue of Recovery.
  • Are comfortable with the technical side of running video meetings.
  • Have a good social media presence.
  • Have ties to a network of people in recovery or recovery organizations.
  • Are familiar with or have connections with elected officials.
  • • 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:

  • Pick a topic that reflects the reality of what is happening in a community/state.
  • A topic that will draw to a wider audience.
  • A topic that will inspire recovery advocates and special guests to attend.
  • A topic that Decision Makers need to be educated on and take action on.
  • A topic broad enough to address multiple issues in the community/state.
  • A topic direct enough that the community will understand the purpose
  • A topic urgent enough to encourage the public or media to attend.

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:

  • Get on Virtual meeting 20 minutes early to make sure you have strong WiFi.
  • Use Headphones
  • Check lighting and background
  • Record the Virtual Town Hall
  • Check Zoom settings to limit background noise.
  • Consider the Zoom option to do a poll live during a Town Hall.

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)

  • This step-by-step HOW TO will help you to have the most impact when advancing good public policy and identify barriers to passing your bill. In this helpful guide you will find:
  • A checklist before you begin to make your advocacy efforts easier.
  • A step by step guide on how a bill becomes a law.
  • An understanding of when your advocacy can have the most impact in advancing good public policies.
  • Helpful hints in identifying barriers to advancing the law you are working to get passed.
  • Tips on creating a grassroots effort around advancing your bill.

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.

Public Testimony Stock Photo

Give effective public testimony

Give effective public testimony

  • It is our hope that this step-by-step guide will prepare and empower you to share your recovery story in public at a hearing.

Defining Public Testimony

One of the purposes for the Recovery Advocacy Project is to build a visible and effective constituency in demand of “community and public policy based solutions” in response to America’s long-standing addiction crisis.

Public Hearings can be excellent ways for you, as the grassroots advocate, to have an impact on these community and public policy based solutions.

Here are a few examples of where you can provide Public Testimony:

  • Testifying for or against a bill (public policy) having to do with recovery
  • Speaking up at a local town hall or zoning board meeting about recovery.
  • At a Budget Hearing to a Department that allocates dollars for recovery support (Ex. Health and Human Services).

Speaking at public hearings may sound scary if you are new to it. This is normal.

It is our hope that this step-by-step guide will prepare and empower you to share your recovery story in public at a hearing so that you can come to realize what many recovery Advocates before you have come to realize…

That providing public testimony is one of the most rewarding and impactful things you can do as an advocate.

NOTE* Testifying for or against legislation does not mean you need to be an expert on the bill. You are there to share your story and experiences, and how the law may affect you or other people in recovery. There are most likely public policy experts testifying on the specifics of the bill. Your role is as a recovery advocate with a story to share.

Step by Step Guide to Giving Public Testimony

1. Recovery Language Review

There are a few things that you can do beforehand that will help you shape the most impactful testimony.

We encourage all recovery advocates to review recovery language that will help you focus on solutions and also speak while not using language that adds to any negative stigma that already exists about people in recovery.

  1. Review the HOW TO: Effectively Speak Out as a Recovery Advocate prior to shaping your message for your public testimony. This HOW TO piece specifically focuses on recovery language and messaging.
  2. It is important for those that may belong to a 12 step recovery group to review the Advocacy with Anonymity pamphlet. You can speak out for yourself as a person in recovery and others and not break the traditions.
2. Research

Do some research before your testimony. Many public hearings will have guidelines for the public to follow, like time limits or if you can testify with one or more recovery advocates at a time. Many of these rules can be found online (like your states legislature website), or you can contact the organizers of the hearing and ask some questions.

You should be able to find out:

 

  • If you need to sign up to testify beforehand.
  • If there is a time limit for testimony. (often times it is between 2 to 6 minutes)
  • The names of members of a committee or council that you will be addressing.
  • If you need written copies of your testimony (more on this later)
  • If groups are allowed to testify together.
  • If signs or props are allowed for visuals.
  • What to wear. (Business Casual is a good bet)
  • If the hearing is being recorded or broadcasted anywhere (You can encourage other advocates to watch!)
  • What time to arrive at the hearing.

Here is a quick example of how a State Legislature has taken the time to provide some guidance on their website to the public around testifying. This example is from the state or Oregon, but you may want to Google “ (Your State Name) State Legislature ”to see if you can research on your own.

Review the Oregon State Legislature How to Testify Web Page

  • Work to sign up early. Sometimes public hearings can be short, but if there are a lot of people signed up, the individuals heard early on usually get the most attention from the committee.
  • Some public hearings assign you a timeframe like (afternoon 2-4PM) so it may not be necessary to witness the entire hearing.
  • Many advocates choose to bring a visual to have an impact. For example, families of loss have brought pictures of their loved ones. Please be mindful of the rules and ask beforehand if visuals are allowed.
  • If you are testifying on a bill, it can be helpful to know who the “sponsor”, or “co-sponsors” of the bill are. It can be useful to reference those elected officials if they are on the committee you are testifying to. It can also be helpful to mention if the bill has “bipartisan” support, which, for example means it could be sponsored by both a Republican and a Democrat.
3. Prepare your Recovery Story for Public Testimony by writing it out.

Writing out your testimony before the hearing does a number of things including:

  • Organizing your message.
  • Gives you a framework for your spoken testimony.
  • If there is a time limit you can have a lot more you can leave with the committee members in your written testimony, while you hit the highlights in your spoken testimony.
  • Provides copies to all of the members of the committee you are testifying to.
  • The committee members(and staff) can reference your testimony afterwards.
  • The best testimonies are the ones that are not read off a piece of paper word for word. Use the written testimony to really just hit the bullet points of what you want to say. You can even use a highlighter to be sure you get your main points across.
  • Have your contact information on the written statement in case there are follow up questions or comments.
  • Bring supporting data. You can even reference it in your written testimony. Be careful to not make your testimony too “data heavy”. It is the story that the committees you testify to will most likely remember. You can even ask a local organization in your state if they have anything you can submit.
  • Many Recovery Advocates have also delivered additional supportive testimony from community members that are unable to attend the public hearing in person. Before you attend your event, work to collect a few other hand written statements and submit them with your written testimony.
  •  
4. Practice delivering your Public Testimony.

Try to practice your written testimony out loud a few times.  Work to get a sense of the main points you wish to get across. You can also set a timer to see if you stay in the suggested time frame of the testimony.

The more you practice the easier the testimony will be live. Keep working to give your testimony without reading it. It even helps to pretend there is a panel of people listening in front of you.

  • The Recovery Advocacy Project is a network of grassroots Recovery Advocates. If you want someone to take a read of your testimony or have a quick phone call to practice with let us know! Each state has a State Lead(s) you can contact, and a Facebook Group. Go to recoveryvoices.com for more specific state information and join your regional Facebook Group.
  • While it is good to rehearse, it is important to not sound rehearsed! Be sure not to lose the genuineness of your story while practicing over and over.
  • If there is a time limit, rushing will not help. Nothing gets accomplished if you just speed your way through the testimony just to finish. Be sure to take your time and choose the strongest pieces of your testimony. Try speaking slowly when you practice and listen to what is most impactful.
  • Your tone is important. If something is urgent, say it urgently. If something is meaningful to you, be sure that is relayed through your tone.
  • Pauses are effective.

What to bring to the public testimony

  • Enough written copies for yourself and each one of the committee members. You may also want a few more if you get requests from press, or committee staff members.
  • Displays like photos or signs (ask prior to displaying)
  • A group of supporters. (Many recovery Advocates have effectively testifies with a main spokesperson and a large number of supporters standing behind them for visuals.)
  • Stickers or T shirts of your local organization.
  • Business Cards if you have them.
  • Written statements from recovery advocates that are unable to attend with you.
  • Information about the Recovery Advocacy Project if others are inspired by your testimony.

What to expect at the public testimony

If you are new to giving testimony, your best bet is to arrive early and watch a few people give testimony before you. It allows you to get a feel for the committee and the room. This is also a good networking opportunity. Try to pay attention to what organizations are there and feel free to reach out to them if you hear a testimony that inspires you.

Arriving early also allows you to take note of how the committee responds if people go over time. Sometimes there will be someone letting individuals know if they are close to their allotted time.

Here are some things to expect:

  • Sometimes you will get questions from the panel you are testifying to, and sometimes you will not. If you do not know an answer to a question, do not make it up. Let them know you can get back to them about that question and follow up accordingly.
  • Not everyone on the committee will be paying attention to every speaker the entire time. While this can be frustrating, some committee members will be more receptive and engaged, depending on the speaker or topic. (Sometimes you can get the attention of the committee with a long pause, or reference a visual you have brought with you.)
  • Be respectful to the panel. You are there to build a connection with decision makers on issues that are important to you. Expect support, but the reality is, not all committee members will always see eye to eye. That is ok.
  • Take your time, especially when you are relaying how important what you are advocating for is to you.
  • Respect the time of the committee. Do your best not to go over the allotted time.
  • Humanize people in recovery. This can be done by reviewing the language in the HOW TO Speak out as a Recovery Advocate toolkit piece on the RAP website. You can also humanize the issues by not having testimony that gets too lost in numbers and statistics.
  • Work to maintain eye contact as best as you can.
  • When you see someone nod in agreement, acknowledge it. It is encouraging, and can also indicate that you are making your point and can move forward in your testimony.
  • It is ok to be emotional while delivering testimony. These issues are important to you and it can be powerful to relay that.
  • Include the Bill Number if you are testifying for or against legislation, especially in the written testimony for reference.
  • Thank the committee you are testifying to for the opportunity.
stock microphone

Effectively speak out as a recovery advocate

Effectively speak out as a recovery advocate

  • This HOW TO piece of the Advocacy Toolkit draws from expertise of advocates that have been researching recovery messaging and speaking out on the front lines of the recovery advocacy movement. Much of the language that Recovery Advocates have used in past efforts is a product of focus groups, both from the general public and the recovery community.

Why Speak Out as a Recovery Advocate?

Speaking out about recovery can build relationships within your communities. Whether you are speaking with elected officials, family members, decision makers, law enforcement, or others in recovery, your story can have an impact. The impact of your story can be strengthened by learning and practicing non-stigmatizing language. That language can be found throughout this guide.

The Recovery Advocacy Project respects every individual’s right to disclose one’s own personal experiences with addiction and recovery in their advocacy efforts. Deciding to speak out about recovery is a personal process for many. It is our hope that this guide about recovery language and messaging will help a new generation of potential recovery advocates in that process. Speaking out publically is both a choice and a right.

This guide will also serve as a reminder for many that have been speaking out for years. 

This HOW TO piece of the Advocacy Toolkit draws from expertise of advocates that have been researching recovery messaging and speaking out on the front lines of the recovery advocacy movement. Much of the language that Recovery Advocates have used in past efforts is a product of focus groups, both from the general public and the recovery community.

Many advocates have come to realize that transforming a private recovery experience to a public one can be incredibly empowering, and can add to an individual’s recovery capital, which is defined as “internal and external resources that can be drawn upon to initiate and sustain recovery.” (White: Recovery Capital Primer for Addictions Professionals)

Every person in recovery, their family members and allies, have the right to speak out and develop an impactful story that can advance their advocacy and community organizing efforts.

There are many reasons at the center of why people in recovery are coming out of the shadows to speak out including

  • The Recovery Community has been defined by others in our own silence.
  • There are discriminatory public policies that exist because of social stigma, and because people in recovery have not always been a part of shaping healthy public policies.
  • Reduce the negative public perception (stigma) that continues to exist for many still struggling with addiction and those living lives in recovery.
  • They are proud of their recovery and want to inspire others.
  • Using consistent messaging across the country will strengthen the recovery advocacy movement as a whole.
  • Address the stigma applied to family members of those in addiction or in recovery.
  • People in recovery have rights.
  • Establishing relationships with local decision makers and elected officials.
  • The Addiction crisis is urgent.
  • Speaking out for those we have lost to addiction.

“By claiming the right to speak publicly and to frame their experience in their own language, recovering people are politicizing (in the best sense of this term) what up until now have been their own private experiences.”

William White, Rhetoric of Recovery Advocacy

Can I speak out as a Recovery Advocate if I belong to an Anonymous 12-step group?

Yes, you can.

Anonymity is an important tradition to many people in recovery.  It is also misunderstood.

Anonymity does not mean that you cannot speak publically about your recovery. You can advocate for the rights of yourself and others without breaking with any of the traditions of a 12 step fellowship as long as you do not mention the 12-step group by name, and you are not speaking as a representative of that 12-step group.

For example, when speaking out, you are not a “member of AA”, you are speaking up as a person in recovery, and as an advocate for recovery.

To go more in depth on this topic, there is a great pamphlet you can download called “Advocacy with Anonymity” that many people in recovery have read and shared with others to explain how to advocate, while honoring the traditions.

Why the Language we use to Speak Out matters:

When speaking out, the language we use becomes about the perception of how it is heard by others.

“Words are important. If you want to care for something, you call it a ‘flower’; if you want to kill something, you call it a ‘weed’.”

Don Coyhis, Founder and President of White Bison

For most of us in recovery, we have our own language when speaking with others in recovery that is meaningful to us. We have to understand that language used between people in recovery can be misunderstood, or not understood at all, by those not familiar with addiction or the recovery process when spoken in public.

The words we use as we publically speak out for our rights, does not necessarily have to reflect the words we use in our personal recovery process.

When we speak out as a recovery community it is important to do so in a way that is responsible and doesn’t add to the stigma that already exists. Using the wrong words in our efforts to speak out can hurt the recovery advocacy movement, even if that was not the intention.

In his paper titled Rhetoric of Recovery Advocacy, Recovery historian and author William White reminds us

“Words have been used to wound addicted and recovering people–to declare their status as outcasts.  Words can also be used to heal addicted and recovering people and invite them into fellowship with each other and the larger society.”

“Words, and the meanings with which they are imbued can achieve accuracy and relevance or they can transmit dangerous stereotypes and half-truths. They can empower or disempower, humanize or objectify, engender compassion or elicit malignant fear and hatred.  Words can inspire us or deflate us, comfort us or wound us. They can bring us together or render us enemies. Put simply, our lives are profoundly shaped by the words we apply to ourselves and those that come to us from others.”

The Recovery Advocacy Project encourages you to study the recovery language below and practice it to inspire others, create healthy community relationships, heal, and advocate for public policy.

Labels to abandon while Speaking Out

The way people in recovery identify themselves, or are identified by others, is a great place to begin when talking about how we are perceived as a community.

The reality is that people who use drugs, and people in recovery, are people and should be treated as such. Let’s use language that demands respect, equality, and hope for other. To do this we must look at some common words that do not reflect us, yet are still currently used to describe our community.   

The following labels dehumanize people in recovery or persons using drugs. Many of the labels below are slang, and are offensive and demeaning. Let’s work together to eliminate these offensive labels while speaking out.

  • Addict*
  • Alcoholic*
  • Drug Abuser
  • Junkie
  • Criminal
  • Loser
  • Wino
  • Crackhead/Meth-head/Pot-head/Junk-head
  • Tweaker
  • Druggie
  • Lush
  • Helpless
  • Doper
  • Dope fiend
  • Burnout
  • Stoner

Note*

To many people in recovery, “Addict” and/or “Alcoholic” hold meaning when we self-identify.

However, when the general public hears the words “addict” or “alcoholic” (even “recovering addict/alcoholic”), it most likely holds a negative connotation and there could also be a pre-judgement made. Also, most people hearing these two labels assume that the person is still using drugs or alcohol, when that often is not the case.

Using person-centered language

Person – centered language humanizes people in recovery or a person still actively using drugs.

Instead of using the label “Addict” or “Alcoholic” practice using Person-Centered Language like:

  • Person in Long Term Recovery (from alcohol/drugs)
  • Person in Recovery (from alcohol/drugs)
  • Person with Substance Use Disorder
  • Person in Active Addiction

This also applies to family members and allies impacted by addiction and recovery when speaking out. Here are some examples of how to identify yourself as a family member or ally.

  • A family member of a person in recovery/person with substance use disorder.
  • A supporter of a person in recovery.
  • Mom/Dad of a son/daughter struggling with addiction.

Words/Phrases we need to abandon when speaking out, and preferred terminology

The word “abuse” holds a negative connotation. It also can be attributed with other forms of abuse (Ex. Physical Abuse, Domestic Abuse, Sexual Abuse). The words “drug abuse” or “drug abuser” also negates the idea of addiction being a health issue, and blames the addiction strictly and solely on the person struggling.

Preferred terminology to “Drug Abuse”: “Person using drugs”, “drug use”, “use”, “misuse”

Many people in recovery are used to stating that they are clean from drugs. While other people in recovery understand what this means, think of the perception of those who do not understand addiction. Ask yourself what commonly is the opposite of the word “clean”? The answer is “dirty” or “unclean”

Would we want to label people still using drugs as “dirty”?

Preferred Terminology to “Clean”: “Person in Recovery”, “Person in long-term recovery”, “Person in remission”.

“Relapse” – While relapse can be a part of someone’s recovery story, the word “relapse” does carry a negative connotation. If relapse is a part of your recovery process it can still be a part of your messaging, but be careful in how you may word it.

Preferred Terminology to “Relapse”: Re-occurrence of use or recurrence of symptoms.

Many people in recovery refer to themselves as being “sober”.  When speaking out publically the term sober can hold a different meaning. Many people not in recovery think of the word sober as temporarily not drinking (Ex”I am the sober driver tonight!”), while many in recovery use the term in a way of speaking about sustained recovery time.

Preferred Terminology to “Sober”: “Person in Recovery”, “Person in long-term Recovery”

Many still use the word “Consumer” to describe people in treatment or recovery. When people hear the word “consumer” it sounds as if that individual is taking something, purchasing something, or sucking up the system. In reality, many people in recovery add to their communities, give back to others, and contribute to society.

Preferred Terminology to “Consumer”:  “Person”

You can preview and download this helpful image on recovery dialects that you can use as a reminder before you speak out. Feel free to share it on social media outlets as well.

Words and Phrases to Elevate while Speaking Out

  • Recovery
  • Long-Term Recovery
  • Sustained Recovery
  • Recovery Supports
  • Medication Assisted Recovery
  • Recovery Community
  • Communities of Recovery
  • Recovery Community Centers
  • Recovery Oriented Systems of Care
  • Recovery Coaching
  • Collegiate Recovery Communities
  • Recovery High Schools
  • Community Solutions around Recovery
  • Peer Recovery Support
  • Recovery Support Services
  • Mutual Support
  • Living Proof
  • Family Supports
  • Lived Experience
  • Recovery is a reality
  • Recovery Month
  • Advocacy
  • Recovery Advocate
  • Community
  • Supporters/Allies of Recovery

Pointers in developing your core recovery story and message

A recovery story is not the same as an addiction story. Addiction stories tend to focus on the struggle of active addiction, sometimes spending too much time on the problem. While that is an important story to tell to raise awareness, it is also the story that generally is already being told in the media and written in articles across the country.

 A recovery story tends to focus on solutions as they inspire hope and a vision for what is needed for recovery to thrive in an individual, community, or state.

Much of the advocacy that people in recovery do when speaking out may offer a snapshot of what addiction was like, but then turn to a recovery story to offer ideas for community or legislative solutions.

Here is a framework to use to shape a powerful recovery story/message.

  1. Introduce yourself

Introduce yourself and identify in a person centered manner such as Recovery Advocate, Person in Recovery, Person in Long Term Recovery, Family Member in Recovery/of someone in Recovery, Supporter of Recovery, or person with substance use disorder.

  1. Share how recovery has benefited you, your family, or community

Paint a picture of what life is like as a result of recovery. Share some hope to inspire people here. Many advocates share about going back to school, repairing relationships, being a father/mother, having employment, advocating, helping others. Remember, you are not speaking out to brag about the good things in your life as a result of recovery, but speaking out to inspire others.

“My life today as a person in recovery is…”

“As a result of recovery, today my life is…”

“Some of the things I have back in my life today are…”

  1. Tell them why you are advocating and speaking out

 “I am speaking out today because…”

“What could really help this community/state is…”

“Recovery resources are needed because…”

“I am advocating for a peer Recovery Community Center in town because…”

“Some solutions around the addiction crisis that I am advocating for is…”

“Recovery support will benefit the entire community/state because…”

“The problem we are seeing in our communities is _____, and that is why recovery support is needed…”

Additional Guidance in Developing your story and message to speak out

  • Practice, practice, and practice some more.

It will help to keep a notebook to write out your story and core messages. You will find that your story and message will evolve over time and experience with speaking out. You can also ask another advocate in the area to take a look at your messaging, or listen to your story, and ask for feedback.  

Pay attention to any feedback you get from audiences after you speak out. Make a note of it in your notebook for next time.

  • Be genuine while speaking out

Even if you have shared the same story or message 100 times in public, work to always keep the realness of your story. Remember that every time you speak out there are people in the audience that have not heard you before and may need to hear that message. If there is a piece of your story or message that is emotional, let it be emotional and real, even if you have shared it many times.

  • Be mindful of your Tone:

Speaking out is not always just about the words you use. If you are demanding action, your tone should to reflect that. If you are fed up, your tone should reflect that. If you are working to inspire others with your story, your tone should reflect that.

Tip* If you want to express a confident or impactful tone, it helps to say the sentence as if it had an exclamation point after it.

For example “There have been 3 drug overdoses in the past few months on campus. We need Recovery Support Services and access to Narcan on campus, now((!!!)) so we can save lives and get young people on a pathway to recovery.”

  • Pace yourself when delivering your message:

Take your time in getting the most important parts of your message across. Know the most impactful portions of your story and build to it. Use pauses to maximize your most important points.

  • Be a chameleon:

Know your audience. The core of your story can remain the same but you may want to adjust your message depending on who you are talking to. For example, you may tweak your message depending on if you are speaking to an auditorium full of high school students, or a room full of law enforcement officers.

  • Avoid using Jargon:

Almost every community has jargon.  This includes the recovery community. Jargon is defined as  “special words or expressions that are used by a particular profession or group and are difficult for others to understand.”

Jargon includes the use of acronyms for organizations you may belong to or reference while speaking out.

 Some examples of recovery jargon would be “Keep it simple.” “One day at a time.” or an acronym like “SAMHSA”

 Although you, or others in recovery may know what these terms mean, it is possible your audience does not.

  • Practice some more!

Language for those Actively Using Drugs

In this guide we have focused a lot on people in recovery, family members, and allies speaking out. An important voice in the recovery advocacy movement is of people who are currently using drugs, who want to speak out about what is needed in their community.

*The Recovery Advocacy Project would like to thank PA-Harm Reduction Coalition for developing this core message for people who use drugs that wish to speak out.

Core Message for People Who Use Drugs:

  • Harm reduction policies enable me to stay safe and continue to care for the people around me.
  • When I access harm reduction services, I feel [safe/supported/cared for].
  • Expanding access to these services could help more people who use drugs and help us address the opioid epidemic effectively and compassionately.
  • I’m speaking out so that everyone can have access to what they need and deserve

Language for those Actively Using Drugs

Always.

Be consistent with your language and messaging whether you are commenting social media sites, news articles, dialoging with family and friends, or speaking with elected officials or decision makers in your community. It all adds up.

Here is a reminder of where it is appropriate to use different words and phrases.

Other Recovery Messaging Resources

town hall

Organize a recovery town hall with decision makers

Organize a recovery town hall with decision makers

  • This step-by-step HOW TO will help you in your effort to organize a Town Hall to survey local issues, understand public opinion, enlist advocates, and build relationships.

Defining a Town Hall Meeting

Recovery Town Hall Meetings are forums that allow advocates to have their voices heard on the issues and solutions most impacting their community. The purpose of the forum is to convene local decision makers in a way that allows them to listen to topic experts, people with lived experience, and advocates in order to better understand the needs of the community. 

Organizing Recovery Town Hall Meetings can translate to local policies, practices, and collaborations that help those directly impacted by addiction or those living lives in recovery.

Defining Decision Makers

Each community is unique, but the one thing that every community has is people who are responsible for making decisions for residents. 

When we think about local Decision Makers in communities around our issues, the list could look something like this

  • Elected Officials (Mayor, Town Council, State Representatives, School Board)
  • Elected Official’s Staff
  • Chief of Police (and other Law Enforcement)
  • Faith Leaders
  • Zoning Boards
  • Health Workers
  • Educators and School Boards
  • County Drug and Alcohol Administrators
  • Department of Health
  • Prosecutors
  • Department of Corrections leadership
  • Drug Court Teams

Why organize a Recovery Town Hall Meeting with your decision makers?

  • Organizing this type of event can build relationships in the community that otherwise would not have existed.
  • Many Decision Makers need feedback and ideas from the community to be able to do their jobs in the most effective way.
  • Creates a space for advocates to have their ideas and solutions listened to.
  • Keeps addiction issues and solutions front and center.
  • Shows an organized recovery constituency.
  • Provides an opportunity to get media attention around the issues you and other local advocates care for most.
  • Educates and raises awareness with the general public.
  • Shows a visible constituency that is organized around recovery.
  • As you organize the Recovery Town Hall, you can identify your organizing team as alcohol resource around addiction and recovery.

Recovery Advocates and Organizations from all over the country have benefited from organizing different versions of these local Recovery Town Hall Meetings. Here is a step by step guide and some best practices so you can work towards organizing your own Recovery Town Hall Meeting.

Step by Step Guide to Organizing a Recovery Town Hall Meeting

1. Put together an Organizing Committee that will help you plan your Recovery Town Hall Meeting.

Organizing a Recovery Town Hall Meeting will be much easier with a team of other advocates that care about the same issues you do and want to highlight solutions at an event.

You may already have some organizing committee members in mind if you have a local advocacy team (HOW TO Host a monthly recovery advocacy team meeting) or if you have worked to build your recovery advocacy base (HOW TO Build your Advocacy base and sustain it)

A good size committee for this project would be 6 -10 individuals.

  • Assemble a committee that is diverse. You may want to have a mix of recovery advocates, family members, addiction experts, people with lived experience on the potential topic (Step 2) your committee chooses, and other local leaders on the issue of addiction.
  • Ensure your committee best reflects the makeup of your community.
  • You may be in the early stages of your community organizing. If you have less than the 6 to 10 people recommended for your committee that is ok. A smaller group could be easier to manage.
  • Develop a schedule to communicate with your committee. The best planning meetings are when you can meet in person, however, you may want to also set up a conference call line www.freeconferencecall.com for check-in meetings with your team.
  • Once your committee 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. The committee may even decide to split into sub-committees to play to individual strengths. For example, the committee could form a Promotion & Outreach Team, Media & Social Media Team, Event Logistics Team etc.
2. Pick a topic for your Recovery Town Hall Meeting

Step 1 and Step 2 could be interchangeable. You may have already identified an issue to focus on and assembled your committee based on that issue. If that is not the case, the first task for your organizing committee is to choose a topic that will draw interest to your Recovery Town Hall Meeting.

Choosing a topic will also direct the type of community event you are convening. For example, the topic of “Understanding Addiction and Recovery” could be an educational forum, while a topic like “Solutions to the local Addiction Epidemic” sounds both educational and a call to action.

When choosing a topic, the committee should consider the type of Town Hall meeting you want to organize and ask if your topic has the following criteria:

  • Does our topic reflect the reality of what is happening in our community?
  • Does our topic have draw to a wider audience?
  • Will our topic inspire advocates to attend and volunteers to speak?
  • Is this topic one that our Decision Makers need to be educated on and take action on?
  • Is the topic vague enough that it can address multiple issues in the community?
  • Is the topic direct enough that the community will understand what the event is?
  • Is there an urgency expressed in the topic that will encourage the public or media to attend?
  • Do we need to bring in an expert to dive deeper into our topic?

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

  • Addressing the Addiction Epidemic
  • Addiction Recovery Support Services
  • 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
  • We are in Recovery, and We Vote
  • Be sure that everyone on the committee has a chance to be heard at the initial planning meeting. This may also provide ideas for future event topics.
  • There are advantages to choosing a topic that is vague. It may be possible to have speakers address multiple issues in the community under a broad theme. For example, the topic could be “Access to Recovery Support Services” which would allow for many different speakers. You could end up addressing a number of different community issues under that topic including Medication Assisted Recovery, recovery coaching, lack of community resources, recovery housing, or access to care.
  • There are also advantages to having topics that are direct. For example, choosing a topic like “Access to Naloxone for All” would let people know exactly what type of event your committee is planning and you could highlight many speakers with different backgrounds around the same topic to get your point across to Decision Makers.
  • Pick a topic that could potentially draw in some special guests. For example, you may want to choose a topic you know there is a local elected official that champions that particular issue.
  • Be sure to research your Decision Makers as much as you can to understand where they stand on the issues.
3. Plan the Recovery Town Hall location and date of event details

Location:  Location is key to putting on a successful event. With your committee, identify potential community buildings in the area that could host the amount of people you would expect to attend the event. Members of the committee may have existing relationships with people that work at facilities that could host the Recovery Town Hall.

Some potential ideas for facilities could include:

  • Recreation Centers
  • Community Centers
  • Recovery Community Centers
  • Library Event Rooms
  • University Classrooms or Student Centers
  • High School Auditoriums
  • Church Auditoriums

Date/Time of Event: Based on the many events that have been organized all over the country by recovery advocates and organizations, it is recommended that your committee takes 3-4 months to plan an impactful event.

It may be easier to schedule the event after people generally are out of work, like 6-8PM on a Wednesday. You may want to offer food or snacks, if possible.

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.

  • It is important to look at spaces that potentially have public transportation in your area.
  • If your committee plans to host an event that, for example, runs 6-8PM, be sure to ask if the space can be reserved from 5PM- 9PM for the room set up before the event, and also leaving some time if the event goes over 2 hours.
  • While looking for potential spaces, it is best to find a room that could hold 30-120 people, depending on the goals of the organizing committee.
  • Work to secure a date that you know your special guests can commit to. For example, you could have a State Representative that can agree to attend if it is held on a specific date.
  • You may want to pick a space that already has audio hookup. (Microphone and Speakers)
  • Pick a space that is well known in your area.
  • Assign someone from the organizing committee to be the point of contact for the event with the facility your team chooses.
  • Be sure to have a main contact at the facility you reserve for your event. This will be the point person as your committee continues to plan the Recovery Town Hall Meeting, and may be useful if something should change in the organizing process.
4. Pick a format for your Recovery Town Hall Meeting

There are a number of different formats to Town Hall Meetings that can accomplish what the committee is working to do. When deciding on a format, it is important to not only think about the end result and purpose of the Recovery Town Hall meeting, but also consider the message and who will be most impactful in delivering that message to the attendees and even potential media.

Here are three formats that will shape how your committee proceeds in organizing the Recovery Town Hall event. Your committee may find that they could use a format that combines two or all of these styles.

  1. Speaker Forum
  2. Educational/Awareness Forum
  3. Decision Maker Forum

A Speaker Forum is a Recovery Town Hall that highlights a number of pre-selected speakers and stories around the same topic. This format would be ideal if you want to highlight the stories of those with lived experience that are directly impacted.
For example, your committee may want to plan a Recovery Town Hall with the topic of “Many Pathways to Recovery” in which the event has 6 individuals speaking about their own pathway to recovery. Or the committee may want to plan an event around Recovery Support Services in which six different speakers highlight a Recovery Support that has helped them.

Benefits of potentially using this format:

  • Allows for speakers to be selected (and trained) based on the message of the Recovery Town Hall. This allows for a pre-planned and consistent message to Decision Makers.
  • Strong impact through storytelling.
  • Humanizes the issues. Makes recovery and solutions a reality for the community.
  • Often has an impact on the Decision Makers in attendance.

Things you will need for a successful Recovery Town Hall using the Speaker Forum format

  • 5-6 speakers with lived experience on the topic. (It will help to have speakers that are familiar with Recovery Messaging) The planning committee can encourage potential speakers to review HOW TO: Use Recovery Messaging to organize and reduce stigma in your community.
  • A panel of community Decision Makers at the front of the room to listen to the 5-6 speakers that are pre-selected by the committee to share their stories around the chosen topic.
  • Audio (Microphone and Speakers) depending on the facility.
  • A facilitator for the Recovery Town Hall (more on this in Step 10 )
  • An audience to listen to the discussion.

An Educational/Awareness Forum is a Recovery Town Hall that is primarily meant to feature an expert on a particular topic. This format would be ideal if the goal of your Recovery Town Hall is tackle an issue that requires a specialist to explain.

For example, your committee may want to plan a Town Hall with the topic of “The Science of Addiction and Recovery” where there is a presentation by an Addiction expert, followed by a short conversation with the community Decision Makers.

This format also works to highlight Motivational Speakers.

Benefits of potentially using this format:

  • Allows your topic’s message to be delivered by an expert.
  • Has potential to draw a wider audience.
  • Can lead to informative Question and Answer sessions.
  • Choosing an expert may add instant credibility to your event.

Things you will need for a successful Recovery Town Hall using the Educational/Awareness Forum format

  • An expert on the chosen topic. Ideally, the expert will be a draw for a large audience and should be from the local community, if possible.
  • Audio/Visual set up. Your expert on the topic may request use for a Powerpoint presentation. (This could potentially open up a beneficial partnership with local schools or Universities)

A Decision Maker Forum is a Recovery Town Hall format that focuses a majority of the discussion between the decision makers on the selected topic, and then often leaves room for questions from audience members.

This type of format usually features some sort of panel in the front of the room, and a facilitator to guide the conversation of the panel of Decision Makers, and Question and Answer Session after the panel discussion.

This format would be ideal if the committee wanted to highlight some successful programs and solutions that may already be happening in the community. For example, your committee may want to plan a Recovery Town Hall with the topic of “Addressing the Addiction Crisis: A community response” and feature an Elected Official, a Law Enforcement Officer, a Health Care worker, a Program Director for Peer Recovery Support, and an Educator.

Benefits of potentially using this format:

  • Allows the Organizing Committee to build relationships with Community Leaders prior to the Recovery Town Hall event. The confirmed Decision Makers on the panel may even agree to do a press release for the event to highlight their involvement.
  • The general public may be more apt to come to an event that features known community leaders.
  • The Organizing Committee could always work with a few audience members ahead of time to initiate the Question and Answer portion of this style of Recovery Town Hall.

Things you will need for a successful Recovery Town Hall using the Decision Maker Forum format

  • Diverse Panel of Decision Makers
  • Audio Support (Microphone and Speakers)
  • A skilled facilitator for the event
5. Create a promotional tool for the event.

One of the most effective promotional tools will be a flyer for the Recovery Town Hall but your promotion shouldn’t stop there. If you’re a Recovery Advocacy Project Leader you have access to creating online event registration pages using Action Network. This should be the standard practice for all community events to capture people who’ve registered so you can send reminders and thank you emails for the event. All RAP Leaders have access to RAP assets for your flyer design in the files section of your Action Network group (like logos, banner images, photos, etc.), plus, the RAP Organizing team is always available to help answer any questions you have.

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 and online event page) The tools could begin with a simple “Save the Date” to a version with more details, logos, and confirmed Decision Makers.

The promotional tools can serve many purposes for your Recovery Town Hall including:

  • Promote the Recovery Town Hall in local business or community spaces (Coffee Shops, Main Street Businesses, College Campuses etc)
  • Promote on social media
  • Invite people through email
  • Build the Audience
  • Create excitement and word of mouth on the Recovery Town Hall.
  • Gain additional community partnerships (Step 6)
  • Attract local Decision Makers. (Step 7)

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: Location including Address, Day/Date, Time event begins.
  • Include if food/refreshments will be included at the event.
  • Include any logos of local businesses or non-profits that you are partnering with.
  • Have a contact email to answer questions about the Recovery Town Hall.
  • Short description of the event including target audience
  • You may have someone on your committee 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 committee or see if they will assist.
  • Your promotional tool may go through a few versions in the event your committee confirms Decision Makers/finds more community partners for the Recovery Town Hall.
  • Include images on your promotional tool to catch people’s attention.
  • Use brighter colors on the Flyer to catch people’s eye.
  • Let people know if there will be resource tables at the event.
  • Resources
    • CANVA is an web-based design software full of templates for you to use. You can easily create flyers and posters for free, although some features require a paid account. (If you have a nonprofit you can register to use the PRO version for free!)
    • Pikto Chart is a free online design website that will allow you to create flyers and infographics with ease. Some features are paid.
    • Adobe Spark gives you access to a library of templates and design inspiration. You can quickly create a professional-looking flyer with this online resource.

Sample Description on Flyer

“Addiction affects many families in our community. This Recovery Town Hall Meeting will bring together people in recovery from addiction, their loved ones and allies, with our local elected officials and decision makers to work towards community solutions to the addiction crisis. All are welcome to attend.”

6. Outreach to partner with other community groups

Many recovery advocates and organizations across the country have partnered with their local business and non-profits to show strength as a community, as well as increase the word of mouth and audience of the Recovery Town Hall.
Organizing a Recovery Town Hall can accomplish more than educating decision makers or the public, raising awareness, or creating a call to action around an issue. It is important for your committee to look at this project as a way to potentially create new partnerships, allies, and connections. You and your committee will find allies just waiting to support your goals.

Many local business owners or non-profits will partner with your committee if asked. Use the Promotional Tool from Step 3 to approach these potential partners.

  • In one of the committee meetings, come up with a list of local businesses and non-profits to approach. Some of the people on the committee may have existing connections with business owners of staff at the non-profit organizations. Leverage existing relationships as you organize the event.
  • Come up with specific asks for the business owners or non-profits including food/coffee donations, putting up a Flyer in the business, or helping to promote the event. This is an opportunity for each business to give back to the community and be a part of something.
  • Talk to your committee about having resource tables at the event. You can provide a local business owner or non-profit with a resource table at the event and ask them to agree to promote the event in return.
7. Create the Recovery Town Hall invitation for Decision Makers

Once you have established the date, time, location and topic of the Recovery Town Hall it is time to put together your list of Decision Makers to invite.

Your committee should use the list below to come up with the names and contact information to invite your community Decision Makers. Many of your invitees can be invited by email or phone, but some of your committee members may know them personally, so they should deliver the invite or make the ask.

  • Elected Officials (Mayor, Town Council, State Representatives, School Board)
  • Elected Official’s Staff
  • Chief of Police (and other Law Enforcement)
  • Faith Leaders
  • Zoning Boards
  • Health Workers
  • Educators and School Boards
  • County Drug and Alcohol Administrators
  • Department of Health
  • Prosecutors
  • Department of Corrections leadership
  • Drug Court Teams
  • 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 Recovery Town Hall is for the community via a telephone call.
  • Invite 20 people to get between 5-10 YES’s.
  • Don’t let invitation declines stall your efforts in assembling a good attendance form other Decision Makers. Expect some NO replies.
  • Use confirmed YES’s to build on the Recovery 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 other elected officials like yourself to attend.”
8. Explore other ways to promote your event and build your audience.

The most effective way to build your audience and mobilize people to your event is through strong outreach to local recovery non-profits, treatment centers, mental health groups, recovery and family groups, recovery houses, prevention and harm reduction groups, and working to get commitments of how many people each group can deliver to the Recovery Town Hall.

In addition to word of mouth and using the promotional flyer, there are many tools available online your committee may opt to use to reach more audiences and increase attendance to the Recovery Town Hall.
Here are a few tools Recovery Advocates and Recovery Organizations have found helpful.

Action Network Events

www.actionnetwork.org

If you are a Recovery Advocacy Project State or Regional Leader, you have access to a suite of advocacy and community organizing tools at no cost through your Action Network account. This pallet of tools gives you everything you need to plan and promote a successful Town Hall. The standard for all Recovery Advocacy Project Leaders should be to create an event action in Action Network and share this event page online and through email once it’s created.

If you’re not a Recovery Advocacy Project Leader, you can easily contact your state lead and collaborate on your Town Hall event. Utilizing your State Leader will greatly benefit the attendance and success of your event.

Eventbrite

www.eventbrite.com

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

Having an Eventbrite link associated with the promotional tool for the Recovery 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 committee 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 the event.
  • You can easily link your Eventbrite event to Facebook Events and manage all attendees in a single place while promoting through Facebook and online. Doing this allows people on Facebook to easily register without leaving Facebook.

Create a Facebook Event Page

Click here for a step by step guide with pictures on how to set up a Facebook Event.

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 if will show that individuals FaceBook friends that they are attending.
  • You can invite selected or entire friend lists to the Recovery Town Hall, or create a larger list by allowing invites to ‘friends of friends’
  • Allows organizers to answer any questions about the event.
  • Allows organizers 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 Committee should all work to invite locals on their Facebook Friends list. You can also add multiple hosts to your Facebook Events and ask other organizations to list your event on their organization’s Facebook page so it will display under their upcoming events too.

Use Recovery Advocacy Project’s Social Media Toolkit

The Recovery Advocacy Project has developed a Social Media Toolkit that could help raise the profile of your event across many social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Blogs and others.

The Social Media Toolkit has suggestions for hashtags and graphics that could assist you in reaching a larger audience while promoting your Recovery Town Hall.

The Recovery Advocacy Project’s Social Media Toolkit can be found here.

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.

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.

1. Identify appropriate contact for each media outlet.

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.

2. 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 cover the Recovery Town Hall, the human interest story, and a contact for more information. You, or someone on your committee should be a designated contact for media.

Be sure to have a media sign in sheet at the Recovery Town Hall.

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.

https://www.nonprofitmarketingguide.com/blog/2016/05/12/5-ways-to-get-the-media-to-cover-your-next-event/

https://fitsmallbusiness.com/how-to-get-local-press-coverage/

https://www.marketingdonut.co.uk/pr/building-relationships-with-the-media/ten-ways-to-get-coverage-in-your-local-media

10. Choose a Recovery Town Hall facilitator for the event

The format of the Recovery Town Hall most likely will require someone that can facilitate the event.

The role of the Facilitator is to welcome the Town Hall participants, keep the program moving and focused, introduce guests and speakers, and make sure the event is running on time.

Ideally, the Facilitator should:

  • Be considered a Leader in their respective community.
  • Believe in the work the committee is doing.
  • Have a personal connection to the topic.
  • Be a recognizable face and/or voice of the community
  • Be able to lead discussions and transition from one part of the event schedule to the next

Suggestions for Facilitator:

  • Local News Anchor
  • Chamber of Commerce President
  • Well-known local Recovery Advocate
  • Organizing Committee Member

Submit your story to the Recovery Voices online publication

Submit your story to the Recovery Voices online publication

Want to share your story of recovery, community organizing, and opinions with the world?

Our voices deserve to be heard. Each of us has a unique perspective and story to add to the national discussion of recovery and America’s long-standing addiction crisis.

You can submit your stories and opinions to the Recovery Advocacy Project online publication, Recovery Voices using the online blogging site, Medium.

Here is quick how-to guide for submitting your story.

1. Create your Medium Account

Medium is an online writing platform for anyone in the world to share their stories, ideas and opinions with the world. You can create an account for free and start writing right away. When you sign up, you’ll be asked to link your account with one of your social networks making it easy to sign-in to your account in the future.

Medium has a great help section to get you started.

Take me to the help section

I’m ready to sign up

 

2. After you’ve created your account on Medium, write your story.

Once you’re all signed up you can begin writing right away. In the upper righthand corner of the page, select your profile then, select new story.

Show me how

 

3. Send the Recovery Advocacy Project a request to be a writer of the Recovery Voices publication.

After you’ve created your account and first story, ask us to be a writer for Recovery Voices by sending an email to our editor at sean@recoveryvoices.com. Once we get your request, you’ll receive an invitation via email from us on Medium. Accept the invitation and begin writing your first story!

Visit our publication

4. Publish your story to the Recovery Voices publication.

Once you receive your invitation to be a contributor of the Recovery Voices publication, you can submit your stories to the publication.

Go to edit the story you’ve written, then in the menu options, you can select where you would like your story to be published – both on your personal page and in the Recovery Voices publication.

Show me how

annie-spratt-hCb3lIB8L8E-unsplash-optimized

Host a monthly recovery advocacy team meeting

Host a monthly recovery advocacy team meeting

Defining a Community Recovery Advocacy Team Meeting

A community Recovery Advocacy Team meeting is a convening of dedicated individuals from all pathways, family members and supporters working to promote recovery through grassroots and community based solutions regarding the long standing addiction crisis.

  • This step-by-step HOW TO will help you in your community organizes practices once you've built a base of advocates.

Why it is important to host community recovery advocacy team meetings 

  • Recovery Advocacy Team Meetings give community members a space to have their voices heard.
  • Thinking and Acting locally is made simpler by bringing together individuals to build community capacity to demand solutions together.
  • Expand your network, open new doors, and maximize your community organizing efforts.
  • There is strength in numbers.
  • Opens up forms of communication that would otherwise not exist.
  • Allows for opportunities to assess current community assets and needs.

Recovery Advocates from all over the country have benefited from various forms of hosting local volunteer Recovery Advocacy Team meetings. Here is a step by step guide, and some best practices for each step, so you can work towards hosting your own monthly team meetings to work towards community solutions.

Step by Step Guide to hosting monthly advocacy meetings

1. Create a list of potential invites to your initial meeting.

This list is an important step. Your list of invites for your Recovery Advocacy Team can include likely participants like people in recovery, family members, and other supporters of recovery.

Your list could also include participants that could be considered non-traditional.

Some of these non-traditional participants could include

  • Activists or community leaders for other social justice causes
  • Workers in the prevention or treatment community
  • Faith leaders
  • Student groups
  • Educators
  • Veterans
  • Criminal Justice Advocates
  • Health and Wellness workers
  • Members of organized parent groups
  • Leaders from racial and ethnically diverse communities
  • LGBTQIAA Community
  • Disabled/Differing abled Community
  • Mental Health Services and Recovery Community

Enroll others in creating this list with you. A small group of 2 or 3 people can make a big difference in the end result of your list. This will help to distribute responsibilities, promote unity and connections.

This should be an ongoing list that you add to. Once you begin to have Recovery Advocacy Team meetings regularly, you can work with your new team members to invite additional volunteers they think would add to the team.

Your list should include people within a fair driving distance.

2. Create an invite online, or printed copies to hand out, with a location, date, time, and description for your first meeting.

Invite your list over email, social media sites like Facebook, word of mouth, or by phone. Be clear about what you are asking people to attend. Many people, in and out of recovery, may assume it is a mutual support group meeting/12 step, so it is important to provide specifics in your invitation.

 

Invite Template

Download this template that you can edit and use as your invite for your community meetings.

Pick a location in advance that will fit the number of expected participants. Request permission to use the space, and work to reserve a date and time there. Some common spaces that could host your Recovery Advocacy Meeting are office spaces, coffee shops, community centers, library rooms, or classrooms.

Give people enough time to RSVP and add it to their calendars.

Choose a time that is easy for people to attend, like after common work hours during the week, or a weekend.

Provide food and refreshments for your meetings. You can also work with a local food vendor to provide donations, or have a pot luck!

Possibly allow for call in or Facetime participation. This may be helpful to some that may have a further drive or can only attend a portion of the meeting, but keep in mind it could result in less people in the room, and less of a personalized atmosphere. 

3. Keep track of RSVP’s, so you can build your advocate invite email (contact) list for future Advocacy Team meetings.

Build upon your Recovery Advocacy Team meeting over time.  There is an ebb and flow to volunteer work. You can expect to build up a dependable core group of people over time that attend the meetings, and many other people who attend when they can, but don’t show up every time.

Create an excel file, or email group, of team member’s contact information and build it over time. This makes it easier to send email invites, and keep track of how people prefer to be contacted. You can encourage all individuals to be a part of the Recovery Advocacy Project, and sign them up to be added to the state Action Network. They will be able to receive guidance from the tools provided and access to their state leads.

Create a Facebook Group page for your team to communicate between Recovery Advocacy Team meetings. This can also serve as a home to send reminders before each meeting.

4. Send reminders before every meeting.

Volunteers have busy lives. Not everyone will attend every meeting, but reminders sent one week, and a day or two before each meeting, will help your team members prioritize it. Encourage your team to add each meeting to their calendars.

At the end of each Recovery Advocacy Team meeting, you should work with the team to come up with the next meeting’s date. This will most likely increase your attendance each month.

Many Recovery Advocacy Teams choose the same day each month for the sake of consistency (Ex. “We meet the third Saturday of every month.”)

5. Create a meeting agenda.

Creating an agenda for each Recovery Advocacy Team meeting in your community shows people you are organized, and keeps the meeting on track. Here is a sample you can follow. See sample >>

Always have a Welcome and Introductions portion of the agenda, even if it is the same people attending each month. Asking people to share their names and why they came to the meeting is important. This allows your team to learn what each member is passionate about, practices the sharing their stories, builds the bond of your team, and allows new advocates to find their voices.

Listen carefully during the Welcome and Introduction portion of the agenda. You may be able to identify and suggest a project based on some commonalities between your team members.

Print out copies of the agenda for everyone, or write it somewhere in the room where everyone can follow it.

Don’t get too off track. Sometimes in group settings, a meeting can go off course.  Work to balance listening to people while staying on track with the agenda. This takes practice.

There should be an update and progress of the current projects the team is working on, and the team members should know what they are contributing to that project.

There should be space on the agenda for “What’s next?”

Always have a section in the agenda for “Additions to the Agenda” so if there are members that need to add something at the meeting, they can always have their voices heard.

While managing your meeting

  • • Always ask someone to take note (minutes) of the meeting. This can be something you volunteer to do yourself or entrust in another core member of your team. This helps with future agendas and updates for other meetings.
  • • Be mindful of how often you are speaking. Your role is to manage and prompt discussion through the team’s agenda and solutions. Ask open ended questions to the team. Open ended questions are questions that are not limited to just a “yes” or a “no”. An example of an open ended question is “What do you all feel like is the most important issues regarding addiction in our community, and what are some ways we, as a Recovery Advocacy Team, can highlight solutions to it?”
  • • Be sure to acknowledge when good work is being done from meeting to meeting. This is meant to be a space where you can empower and encourage your team members.
  • • You may have a group where some advocates are talkative and dominant, while others are quiet and reserved. Be sure everyone is having their voices heard and no one feels left out.
  • • Create project leads for specific projects so the team knows who to get an update from. The team of volunteers should be working together.
  • • Run the meeting the same way regardless of how many people are in attendance. Don’t get discouraged if only a few people show up that month. Often times, more work can get done with less people.
  • • Your Recovery Advocacy Team members will follow your lead. Be sure to set a positive, determined, and focused example for them each time you run a meeting.

Beyond the meeting

  • • Get to know the strengths and talents of your team members. For example, you may discover that you have volunteers that knowing some key decision makers, have graphic design experience, have access to the local radio station, possess writing talents for opinion pieces, or have a large social media following. Each team across the country is unique. Be sure to discover the unique strengths of your team members.
  • • Make sure the team is setting realistic goals. For example, if the team wants to plan an event, be sure that the team has enough team meetings to make the event a reality. Most events could take 3-4 meetings to plan the logistics. Your goal should be to create a space for your team to accomplish their objectives
  • • Be sure to have a contact sign-up sheet at the community events your team hosts, for people interested in joining your advocacy team
  • • Use the RAP Advocate Card to recruit potential new Recovery Advocacy Team members. Make a list of events already happening in your community and see if you can request setting up a table at the event to educate others on your team meetings and purpose.
  • • Ask team members to bring a friend or family to the next meeting to build capacity.

List of potential projects for your team

  • • Create a Community Recovery Resource Guide
  • • Organize a community town hall meeting to highlight an issue affecting your community and provide speakers and solutions. 
  • • Organize a letter writing campaign to support important legislation.
  • • September Recovery Month Activities
  • • Overdose Awareness Month/Day Activity
  • • Alcohol Awareness Month Activity (April)
  • • Host a local training/educational event
  • • Host a fun event for people in recovery
  • • Host Drug and Alcohol Free Recovery Holiday Events
  • • Organize a meeting with your local elected officials or their staff
  • • Community needs assessment
map pin 2

Create a recovery asset and resource map

Create a recovery asset and resource map

Defining a Recovery Asset and Resource Map

An asset map is an inventory of community (local, state, or virtual) strengths and resources that has the potential to guide recovery advocates towards solutions, provide recovery support services, and potentially identify what is needed. Once resources are depicted on the grassroots level, advocates should be able to build on these assets while addressing community needs to make it easier for people to find and maintain recovery.

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.

  • This step-by-step HOW TO will help you in your effort to familiarize yourself and your community with what exists and is still needed around you in regards to recovery support.

Why it is important for organizers to develop a Recovery Asset and Resource Map 

  • A detailed asset and resource map can help guide individuals or family members looking for recovery support services they may not otherwise have known existed. Many asset maps can be the beginning of developing a simple and local resource guide for those seeking help.
  • Expanding your own personal knowledge of what is available and not available around you benefits you as a community organizer.
  • It is important for grassroots advocates to have their finger on the pulse of the community in which they live. We can become local recovery experts.
  • Having an idea of the lack of resources can help guide local advocacy efforts to potentially address any community shortcomings.
  • Many potential grant funders request an asset and resource scan.
  • Producing a Recovery Asset and Resource Map makes it easier to potentially build a coalition of advocates or organizations around issues you care about that affect many people in your area.

Step by Step Guide to Mapping Your Community’s Assets

1. Determine the scope of your Recovery Asset and Resource Map

Depending on the goals of your team, you will have to determine if a Recovery Asset and Resource Map should be done at the community level, county level (and maybe a few surrounding counties) sections of your state, legislative districts, or statewide. This can be determined by asking the team who you are working to assist. 

Take some time to revisit what your Recovery Advocacy Project’s team vision or mission is before beginning your map. You may also belong to an organization that has a strategic plan. It will be helpful to consult this plan to see where your map may assist the organization.

2. Review the Recovery-Ready Community graphic provided by our friends at Young People in Recovery below.

You may even have additional ideas of what could make a Recovery-Ready Community that may not fall into any of the categories provided in the graphic. Trust your instincts and do a scan for those resources as well!

You can also consult the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Eight dimensions of Wellness to expand your map. Take a look and see if it can lead to additional resources around you in step 3.

3. Create a list of resources you know that may fall into each one of these categories in the area you have determined to focus on. Also, take some time to conduct a quick internet resource scan to add to the list of resources.

You may even have some allies that specialize in one or more of the categories that you could reach out to for assistance. There may be resources you didn’t even realize were provided in your local community or state.

NOTE:  Some resources you may discover in the internet scan could be out of date, or even could be paid advertisements for resources out of state.

4. Determine what is missing that the team is most passionate about.

What are the community needs that stick out to you? This will help you to identify initial organizing projects to take steps towards in your local community or state.  

5. Identify potential partners, allies, decision makers, and advocates in your community that could assist you now, or in the future.

This is an important list for you to reference and continue to add to in your local community organizing efforts. When we refer to decision makers, we are referring to elected officials, leaders in law enforcement, faith community leadership, school officials, or other community leaders.  

6. Determine if some of the solutions to any area needs could be either community or legislative based .

There may be existing community or legislative efforts that are already underway. It is important to do a little research and ask someone who knows about statewide initiatives and policies may already exist that you can add your effort to. Many states have recovery organizations that have public policy experts and may be able to help you with this.

7. Share your Recovery Asset and Resource map with others to educate individuals in communities where to go if they are seeking recovery support services.

Look to social media, non-profit organization websites, town (city) & county websites, Blog sites, family and parent groups, and recovery community organizations as potential spaces that could promote your Recovery Asset and Resource Map to help spread the word

*The Recovery Advocacy Project organizing team would like to thank Young People in Recovery for the use of the graphic and some of the language provided in this guide.

 

passion

Building your advocacy base

Building your advocacy base

Defining an Advocacy Base

An advocacy base is a local core group of dedicated supporters of the community organizing work you do. This can include aspects of in person, technical, or moral support in your efforts. Your advocacy base should be a group of people you can rely on when there are local actions or you need help organizing your local advocacy projects.

  • This HOW TO can apply to both local community and state recovery organizations.
  • This HOW TO will have two key parts to help in your organizing.

Building Your Base

Why it is important to build your Advocacy Base.

  • Part of being a successful community organizer depends on your ability to identify, motivate, and encourage a core base of advocates to help you in your efforts.
  • There is strength in numbers.
  • Allows you to understand that you are not alone in your organizing efforts.
  • Building a core base helps you to avoid frustration and fatigue as a community organizer.
  • Your advocacy base will open up additional doors for organizing opportunities, increase visibility on the issues you all support, build relationships with local decision makers, and form new community and organizational partnerships.

Recovery advocates and organizations from all over the country have benefited from advocate and volunteer outreach. Here is a step by step guide and some best practices to work towards building and sustaining your own advocacy base.

Step by Step Guide to Building your Advocacy Base

1.     Understand that building your Advocacy Base begins with you.

Many of you might be asking, “Where do I even start when I build my advocacy base?” Our answer at the Recovery Advocacy Project is “This starts with you.” Understanding what you bring to the table as a leader, community organizer, or advocate is significant to understanding your vision in building an advocacy base.

Take some time to assess your own strengths, passions, leadership and organizing skills. You are an important part of your own advocacy base. Here is a Leadership Assessment you can use for help with this practice. Download Leadership Assessment

After your assessment, take a look at what you can focus on to improve your organizing skills.  Ask yourself what your next level of leadership looks like. If you have people in your network you can learn from, be sure to ask for assistance.   

2.     Create a core list of potential individuals within your network that you think would join you in your advocacy efforts.

This list may range from 5, to 10, to 50+ people. No matter how many individuals end up on your initial list, these individuals came to mind for good reason. Trust your instinct when drafting your list.

The list may include:

  • People in Recovery
  • Supporters of Recovery
  • Family groups
  • Prevention and treatment providers
  • Criminal Justice Advocates

Use your Recovery Asset and Resource Map to improve your outreach list. Find the HOW TO: Create a Recovery Asset and Resource Map HERE

Think outside the box while creating your list. There may be people you can contact that would be willing to take part in your advocacy efforts. Some additional individuals may include advocates for mental health, faith leaders, known community leaders.

Scan your Facebook list of friends, email contacts, phone contacts, and other social media accounts to identify some potential advocates in your area.

Consult the list you created in the HOW TO: Host a Recovery Community Advocacy Meeting to see if there are any additions to be made.

3.     Use a recruitment tool to make collecting contacts of your potential advocacy base easier.

The Recovery Advocacy Team Project has some tools already available to you to build your advocacy base.

One tool many advocates are using is the Recovery Advocacy Team Project Advocate Card. When grassroots advocates complete this RAP Card they will be added to communications from the Recovery Advocacy Project Leadership, and invited to join their regional RAP Facebook pages found HERE.

Encouraging potential advocates to sign up to advocate on the RAP website also automatically organizes them on the state level through the action network for you. You can direct state advocates to your state Recovery Advocacy Project pages.

You may choose to create and use your own recruitment tool similar to the RAP Advocate Card to reflect your community or state.

Assemble advocacy start up packs, and always keep them with you, to hand to your potential base. This pack can include your business card, the RAP Advocate Card, a flyer for your upcoming events or meetings, or information about social media sites linked to your advocacy efforts.

4.     Have consistent community meetings for your advocates to attend.

Learn more about how to host a Recovery Advocacy Project Meeting HERE. Having ongoing-local meetings for interested advocates to attend can be the center of both building and sustaining your base. These community meetings with your neighbors can keep advocates engaged, focused, and working together towards common goals.

Encourage your core team of advocates to share about the next upcoming meetings that are scheduled. The Recovery Community is a word of mouth community, so the enthusiasm generated from your team meetings will spread the word

5.     Create a simple Facebook Group page for your Advocacy Base to join.

Be specific in describing your community Facebook Group.

Example:

The Hamilton Township Advocates for Addiction Recovery meets periodically to provide community based solutions around an addiction crisis affecting many families and our neighbors in Hamilton. We are made up of dedicated people in recovery, family members, and supporters of recovery. Join this Facebook Page for updates on upcoming community meetings, campaigns, projects, and events. 

Make consistent updates to your Facebook Page including local news articles, victories (large and small), inspirational quotes about recovery, local partnerships, local blog articles, community calls to action, and reminders for upcoming local advocacy meetings or events.

Keep all posts page related.

Ask to link your Facebook page and Recovery Advocacy Recruitment tools to existing organizations in your area. Make a quick scan of organizations that would support your advocacy efforts and inquire about partnership.

As the group identifies mission/vision and goals, be sure to update the page and any materials.

Feel free to link any of these toolkit pieces to your Facebook Group page to help guide your advocacy base during community projects. 

Take the time to write your own blog posts and share with the Facebook Group.  Many advocates have used the platform Medium to share writing for local and national issues. www.medium.com

You can find a helpful guide for writing content on Medium here.

Sustaining Your Base

1.     Have consistent recovery advocacy community meetings for your advocates to attend.

Learn more about how to host a Recovery Advocacy Project Meeting HERE. Having ongoing-local meetings for interested advocates to attend can be the center of both building and sustaining your base. These community meetings with your neighbors can keep advocates engaged, focused, and working together towards common goals.

Hosting regular meeting builds momentum and a team mentality that will be easier to keep individuals engaged. It also creates a platform for newly interested advocates to participate. The Recovery Advocacy Project recommends you host a meeting on a monthly basis. Many more best practices for this can be found in the HOW TO: Host a Recovery Advocacy Meeting piece of the toolkit on the RAP website.

2.     Create campaigns for your community members to engage in.

Organizing your efforts into an official campaign gives your advocacy base something you are known for, inspires others to take part, and keeps your advocates engaged.

Neighborhood or community campaigns can catch the attention of your neighbors. For example, if you are working to start a campaign to expand on the availability of Narcan (Naloxone) in public buildings you can use the campaign as a way to educate community members on the “what, the “why”, and the “how of your campaign.

EXAMPLE:

“What” To require all town public building to stock Narcan.

“Why” Narcan saves lives and can lead individuals struggling with addiction towards recovery. “How” Petition the town hall and Mayor’s office by collecting 200+ signatures of town residents.

Come up with a name for your campaign that tells of its purpose and potentially grabs the attention of the public and local decision makers.

EXAMPLE: The “Hamilton Township Save a Life Campaign”

3.     Email an electronic newsletter for your advocates.

Communication is key. In addition to communicating with your advocates through social media, collecting emails with the RAP Advocate Cards, or a Card you create for your local area allows you to report on progress of your local advocacy efforts, link local articles related to addiction and recovery, and remind individuals of upcoming advocacy meetings and community events.

Communications like an electronic newsletter should only be done periodically. Receiving an email once a month, every other month, or every three months will not be too much for your advocates.

Create a simple logo and name for your electronic newsletter. (Ex: The Hamilton Township E-News) There are free sites and apps like Canva you can use to create your logo.

Number your electronic newsletter (Ex. Edition 1, Edition 2, etc.) This can show people that join your email newsletter that this is ongoing and is organized. It may also be a good practice to ask new members if they want to receive the last couple of newsletters so they can get a better idea of the work you and your advocates accomplish locally. 

Many people do not want their email address shared with others. When sending your Advocacy e-mails always use the BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) line when sending out emails.  You can also set up free mass email accounts using sites like Mailchimp to avoid this.

4.     Use tools provided in The Action Network.

There are online tools you can use to help you guide, build, and sustain your advocacy base both locally and on the state level. Your state Action Networks will be created for you and we will link them here on the Recovery Advocacy Project website soon. 

5.     Make a list of upcoming community events.

Many communities, municipalities, and counties have online calendars. Spend some time researching upcoming events and conferences online that may be appropriate for you or your advocates to attend and talk to participants about your advocacy efforts. Inquire about potential speaking programs you can take part in, panel discussions, or resource tables you can set up at. You may find Health Fairs, Community Days, holiday celebrations, or local festivals.

Build relationships with the individuals who assemble these local calendars.  You can promote your upcoming advocacy meetings and community events on these pages. Some just require an online submission.

Local libraries and town community centers also tend to be a center for hosting or promoting community events. Contact them to see how you can stay updated.

6.     Assemble advocacy start up packs, and always keep them with you, to hand to your potential base.

This applies to both building and sustaining your advocacy base. This advocacy start up pack can include your business card, the RAP Advocate Card, a flyer for your upcoming events or meetings, or information about social media sites linked to your advocacy efforts.

Keep a few packets with you in your vehicle.

Ask local recovery supportive businesses, Alano Clubs, and Recovery Community Centers to display some as well. Use the advocacy start up packs as a good conversation starter with local organizations.

Enroll your core advocates in keeping advocacy packets with them to build and sustain your advocacy base.