Under the new NAMI Washington organization as described in the restructuring plan, responsibility for the bulk of advocacy activities, especially with State legislators, shifts to the affiliates. These activities include issue identification; recommendations for issue resolution (initiating/supporting legislation, rule changes, and public policies); educating local legislators, officials in city/county government, law enforcement, and mental health workers; and actively influencing legislators in support or opposition to specific legislative matters.
In the past affiliates generally offered support to NAMI legislative recommendations by sending cards, letters, and email to their local elected representatives when asked or prompted. A few individuals developed relationships with individual legislators which ranged from being acquaintances to close friendships. In Olympia NAMI Washington employed a professional lobbyist to interact with legislators and committees and provide status reports to the membership. This process is very similar to what all other interest groups use and is credited for some success. It might also reflect conventional wisdom that issues attracting great affirmative interest fare far better then those attracting no public response which is written off as indifference.
Under the past system affiliates didn’t need to be well adept at communicating with or relating to the political structure. That has changed. Under the new system affiliates require training, a guidebook, the development of individual and personal relationships with their elected officials at all levels, greater amounts of information made available to educate affiliate members so that they can best make their case, publication of the issues and NAMI positions so that everyone “speaks with the same voice,” and prompts during legislative sessions to help spur the process along.
NAMI Washington has the responsibility for providing leadership and support to its affiliates on advocacy issues. An Advocacy Consultant, working with the NAMI Washington Public Policy Committee, will take the lead for the State working under the NAMI Washington Executive Director.