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Get Involved in the 2016 Legislative Session

Beth Hess - Monday, January 25, 2016
The 2016 Maryland legislative session began on Wednesday, January 13. There will be a number of important bills related to mental health, substance use and/or other behavioral health needs of children, youth and young adults. We need your voice!  What you say does matter to your legislators. There are three main ways that you can have an impact on legislation:
  1. Contact your legislators to express your opinion - either call, write or send an email
  2. Provide testimony in committee hearings - either in person or in writing
  3. Attend MCF’s Family Day in Annapolis and visit your legislators

In order to advocate, you need to know what bills have been introduced. You can do this by going to the Maryland General Assembly website and searching for bills indexed under “mental health” or “substance abuse." Also, the Mental Health Association of Maryland tracks an extensive list of legislation related to behavioral health on their website. Finally, MCF will send out Action Alerts on important bills, and will provide updates on legislation in our monthly eNewsletter. We will also provide information about opportunities to testify.

Not only do you need to know what bills have been introduced; you need to know who your legislators are — they are the ones who will care about your opinion. It’s easy to locate your legislators – click here, enter your address and you will be given a list of your legislators. Click on their names to find the committees that they serve on.

Knowing the committees that your legislators sit on is key to doing targeted advocacy. Once a bill has been introduced it is assigned to a committee for a hearing.  If you have a legislator who serves on that committee, you have an especially strong voice!  In the House of Delegates, most bills related to behavioral health are assigned to the Health and Government Operations Committee; in the Senate, they go to the Finance Committee. Bills relating to education go to the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee. If you have an opinion about a bill assigned to a committee on which your legislator sits, you should contact that legislator. Only bills that pass out of committee have a chance to be voted on in the House or Senate.

The Governor submits his budget to the Legislature in January. The two important committees that handle the state budget are the House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee. These committees can make cuts to the Governor’s budget.  If you have a legislator that sits on one of these committees, it is important to contact them with concerns about funding for behavioral health.

Please join us for our Family Day in Annapolis on February 25, which will be followed by a behavioral health rally at noon.

Learn about the Keep the Door Open Act.

Learn about the Crisis Response Bill.


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