Write to your legislators
Even a handful of letters can have a tremendous impact on legislators and their decision on whether to focus on or support treatment law reform. Letters do not have to be long-winded or full of statistics — in fact, short letters with personal stories are the most likely to be read.
Note that many state and all federal legislators have online portals to submit letters on their website. Letters mailed directly to legislative offices are sometimes delayed, owing to scanning and other security precautions.
TAC also utilizes special software to allow advocates to send letters directly to legislators on specific legislation. When those opportunities are available, you will see them in our Advocacy Center.
IDENTIFY YOUR LEGISLATOR(S)
If you don’t know who your legislator is, check the Advocacy Center on our website. Enter your ZIP code and get the names of your legislators; www.vote-smart.org also allows you to find out more about them.
WRITE YOUR LETTER
Remember that you probably know more than your legislator about severe mental illness. Follow these tips for making sure your letter has maximum impact.
- Type or write legibly
- If you are writing about a specific bill, include the bill number in the first few sentences or a reference ("RE:") line above the salutation
- Be brief and to the point (preferably one page or less); short letters get read
- Use your own words and avoid the appearance of a form letter
- Give your reasons for supporting or opposing a bill
- Use a personal story, if possible
- Be courteous and reasonable
- Use correct grammar and short sentences
- Include a newspaper article/editorial that supports your view (there are some good articles on the TAC website for this purpose)
- Personalize the heading and salutation for each legislator to whom you send a letter
- Proofread and spell check
- Be long winded
- Be rude or threatening
- Reprimand the legislator
- Say, or even hint, that politics is sleazy or dishonorable (no matter what you think)
ADDRESS YOUR LETTER
The correct method of address is:
The Honorable (Name of Legislator)
(Your State Name) State (Senate or Assembly/House of Representatives)
State Capitol Building Room _____
City, State, ZIP Code
The salutation is "Dear Senator/Assemblyperson/Representative (Last Name)."
Some of this information may be pre-filled if you utilize the legislator’s online contact portal.
HELP US IN OUR EFFORTS TO CHANGE THE LAW
Please forward a copy of your letter to The Treatment Advocacy Center via either:
This letter is only an example. Please use your own words.
October 11, 2016
The Honorable Leia Skywalker
Florida State Senate
State Capitol Building Room 123
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1300
Dear Senator Skywalker:
Senate Bill 2748 will allow Florida to provide earlier and more continual treatment for people with severe mental illnesses who are too ill to access services voluntarily. Please support this vital legislation.
My brother, Frank, is like many people with schizophrenia. He does not realize he is ill. We use to think "lack of insight" (anosognosia) was willful denial because of the stigma involved with mental illness. Newer research shows that for many people the inability to recognize their own need for treatment evolves not from denial but from brain dysfunction itself.
Because Frank does not realize he is sick, he sees no reason to accept the services that are available. Instead he revolves through hospitalizations, homelessness and incarceration. A supportive, supervised, and mandated outpatient treatment program like the one included in pending Baker Act reform is Frank's only hope. It can find him treatment, point him toward recovery, and bring him back to us.
I ask you, plead with you, to support revision of the Baker Act. My brother’s health and future depend on it.
Please feel free to contact me for more information.
(City, State, Zip code)