You have a voice in policy decisions!
Whether it's writing letters to legislators, signing a petition or sharing your story—there are many ways you can get involved and be a force for change.
Many state and local committees (including task forces, advisory boards and work groups) related to mental health and/or substance use require that a parent or caregiver with experience caring for a child with these issues serve on the committee. Most committees strongly value the input of family members, and advocate for policies that align with the family voice.
Maryland Coalition of Families staff serve on more than a dozen committees, both on the state and local levels. They represent the perspective of family members on topics including educational advocacy, school-based behavioral health and substance use advocacy.
You can also have an impact by serving on local committees. Consider joining:
- Special Education Citizen’s Advisory Committee (SECAC)
SECACs are committees established by each local school system to seek meaningful input from parents, community partners, service providers, educators, and administrators on local issues related to the provision of services to students with disabilities. According to federal law, all children with disabilities are entitled to a free appropriate public education (FAPE), regardless of the nature or severity of a student’s disability. Contact your local school system to join the SECAC in your jurisdiction.
- Boards of Directors
Many Local Addiction Agencies and Core Service Agencies (or Local Behavioral Health Authorities), Local Management Boards, nonprofits and other community organizations require that a family member serve on their Board. Contact the agency or organization directly to learn of opportunities.
Get Involved in Legislative Advocacy
Your voice can and does make a difference in shaping state policy. Advocates perpetually request that funding for behavioral health services not be cut! Also, there are bills introduced every year that directly impact the families of individuals with mental health and/or substance use disorders on topics such as crisis services, Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), and overdose prevention, to name just a few. You can impact policy by:
- Emailing or calling your legislators and the Governor about particular bills or the State budget
- Providing written or oral testimony in committee hearings when you have personal experience related to a particular piece of legislation
- Meeting with your legislators in your community to discuss the importance of children’s behavioral health
- Attending MCF’s Family Day in Annapolis
To be an effective legislative advocate you need to be informed! Make it a point to:
- Get to know your elected officials
- View Maryland bills that impact mental health and/or substance use
Join Family Day in Annapolis
Each year parents, caregivers, youth and advocates from across the state come together in Annapolis to advocate for children, youth and adults with behavioral health needs, including mental health and substance use challenges. Join us to:
- Learn about relevant legislation and committee work in Maryland's House and Senate
- Meet with your legislators
- Make your voice heard about the need for more funding and services for mental health and substance use treatment
Participate in a Focus Group
Maryland Coalition of Families holds focus groups with families on a variety of topics. Focus groups are meetings of family members in which questions are asked to get the perspective of families on a particular topic. MCF staff then write a report summarizing the findings of the focus groups, and share the opinions of family members with policy-makers. Past focus groups have influenced the state to change policies, enact legislation and apply for grants for new initiatives.
Join our mailing list for notice of upcoming focus groups.
Some examples of the reports developed from past focus groups:
- Listening and Learning from Caregivers of Youth and Young Adults with Substance Use Problems
- Crisis Services and the Experiences of Families Caring for Children and Youth with Mental Health Needs
- Caring for a Child with Co-occurring Disorders