Contact your Legislator
How to Schedule a meeting with your legislators:
1. Identify your Representative and Senator (if you don’t already know) by visiting the Illinois Legislature website (ilga.gov) and clicking on “Legislator Lookup” in the “Additional Resources tab.” Enter your full home address in the map portion and the results should show your legislators.
2. Call their office and say something like: “Hello, my name is ________. I am a constituent of Rep. _______ (or Sen. _____) and I am a physician specializing in psychiatry practicing at (or in private practice; or retired, etc.). I would like to schedule a time to meet with Rep. ______ (or Sen. _____) while he (or she) is home on recess. I’d like to talk with Rep. _____ (or Sen. _____) about ______(an IPS priority issue you feel most comfortable discussing. Refer to a specific bill number whenever possible). When might I be able to do that?”
3. Don’t hesitate to ask to meet with their legislative aide if the legislator isn’t available or if the dates/ times of when the legislator is available do not work with your availability.
4. Prepare for the meeting. Please contact the IPS Executive Director Meryl Sosa at email@example.com for talking points regarding the legislative bills that IPS is supporting or opposing and fact sheets, including a fact sheet about IPS, (to the extent they are available.) You can utilize this information in framing your discussion and you can leave a copy of any fact sheets for the legislator. Personalize your comments and provide local context – legislators often prioritize issues that directly affect their constituents. Personal stories and local examples help illustrate why the issue is important. Prior to the meeting, Google your legislators. Find out what their interests are and look for something that you might have in common. It’s an excellent way to kick-off the dialogue in the face-to-face meeting. Perhaps you went to the same university; maybe they have school-age children the same age as yours; maybe they have done things locally that you can mention. Be sure to take a camera with you. Legislators are accustomed to being asked to have their picture taken with constituents. Let them know you will add it to your Facebook page or share it with the IPS for our publication, etc.
5. On the day of the meeting be sure to arrive on-time. You can usually expect about 15 min. (maybe 30) with the legislator. Open the dialogue by mentioning something that you both have in common personally, professionally or politically. Next, say something like: “Thank you for taking the time today to meet with me to discuss ______ (identify the issue and provide the bill number if it is legislation that has already been introduced).” Then briefly describe the issue using phrases like:
“I’m sure you’re already aware . . .”
“As you probably already know . . .”
“As you may have heard from others that you have met with on this bill . . . “
Then, proceed to share you’re talking points. If the legislator asks you something you don’t know say: “I don’t have that information at my fingertips (off the top of my head, etc.), however, I will be happy to follow-up in writing next week.”
Wrap up the visit with a specific request:
“I hope I can count on you to vote in favor of (or against) bill number and name.”
Finally, offer to be a resource to the legislator by providing them with your phone number and e-mail address and encouraging them to contact you if they need assistance with any health-related legislation or help for their constituents with questions regarding mental illness or substance use disorders (SUD). Also, please let them know that you are a member of IPS and APA and let them know they are free to contact IPS regarding any mental health or SUD issues.
6. Following the meeting be sure to send a handwritten thank you note. And, be sure to provide any requested materials or information in a timely manner. Send an e-mail to the IPS letting us know the outcome of your meeting and if you need staff to follow-up with any additional information for the legislator.
Additional tips and resources:
- If you would like more help or would like to have the IPS lobbyist join you for a meeting with your legislator, please contact Betsy Mitchell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If you are writing a letter to your legislator, you cna contact Meryl Sosa at email@example.com for sample letters.
- To find a full text of bills, as well as to find Current Status of bills, go to: ilga.gov.
- Join the IPS Governmental Affairs Committee to be in the know of all IPS Governemnt Affairs efforts. Participation can be in person or by conference call. Please contact Kristen Malloy at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.