The Importance of Advocacy

Since being a member of the municipality of which I reside, I have always had the ambition of being involved in the community. However, because of the COVID-19 Pandemic that has been halted to a degree. Likewise, the viewings of these civic affairs have been advanced by the pandemic by having them livestreamed or being posted on Facebook Live. Another tool that is used in these efforts is the classic tool of reading the legals in the local newspaper. Anyway, being aware of civic matters around me has become natural to me in one way or another.

As my parents met in the one-mile square municipality of which they have resided all their lives. My dad was a heavy equipment operator for that municipality for over 30 years and my mother was employed through a program in the municipal office there for a few years out of high school before the funding was exhausted. I grew up in that municipality all my life and cast my first ballot at that building. I went with my father to the monthly council meetings so he could fight for our part of the community to have water and not rely on pumps and wells. I watched as those lines were laid and later we had the privilege of having public sewage installed after he retired. Nonetheless, I took a fascination in government.

As I got older and the local cable company offered public access shows on their network, I would watch how these innerworkings of local government would work. Through the advancement of fiber optics I would see more meeting publicized. Nearly twenty years later, we see multiple platforms where one cannot only view these meetings, but at times see them live and some use videoconferencing platforms where you can submit comments if you wish.

In the United States where we have a pattern of democracy where we as citizens have the freedom to speak up and fight for what we need and want not only in civic and governmental matters, but in other forums that the funders of Medicaid insurance offers to its members so that they get the services that they need in order to be productive members of society. I encourage all that can to do so. Twenty years ago I couldn’t even speak up in public. But, with several years of therapies and numerous practice, I have became accustomed to speaking up when necessary. It may take until you are 30 or so (like me) to do it, but I encourage it.

When you do it, your voice will be heard and the voice of the like  minded will be heard, it will be recorded and that will be a mark of progress in your world and hopefully it will be a step on the way of getting what you need to be successful in the community. With this pandemic , we are losing the voices that once were because of meeting restrictions, transition to a digital format, fear of leaving home and so on and so forth. We are also missing the few like myself that participate in constant letter writing campaigns to elected members in federal and state assemblies that are the voice of the everyday consumer where funding is allocated for the services and needs that consumers such as myself need and where OUR stories matter and tug at the strings of lawmakers that make the decisions on where funding should be earmarked for. I remember an adage that was said by an advocacy group I am a member of when funding was being reduced years ago. “Nothing about us without us” Thirty years ago, people in the state hospitals in my state (likely some had autism). Were invited to come and have a seat at the table and speak up for what they needed to be successful in the community. There’s been consumers stakeholder ship since then and commonwealth wide since the passage of the Olmstead Act nearly 20 years ago to ensure that the voice of the consumer is heard and that they are an integral part of their own planning so that they can indeed live where they want to with the proper care and support they need.

We must continue to fight for that voice to be heard locally, regionally, statewide and nationally!

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