Michael J. Readinger

With each new class of the Nollau Leadership Institute, we focus on empowering members of the class to “Be A Voice” — for their vocation and call, for their ministry setting, for their family, for their friends, and for those they serve. They gain the skills and confidence necessary to do this by writing and practicing “elevator speeches,” by exploring the mission, vision and core values of their organizations, and by creating their own set of values as it relates to their passion for ministry. Whether you are a current, past, future leadership institute participant or not, you have the right and the gift to be a voice for yourself and for others.

That right and that gift are at the core of what advocacy is all about. The purpose of advocacy is to use your voice to promote or reinforce a change in policy, program or legislation. Rather than providing support directly to clients or users of services, advocacy aims at winning support from others by creating a supportive environment.

The roots for the word come from late Middle English by way of the medieval Latin word advocatia (from advocare), meaning to summon or call to one’s aid. Not surprisingly, these roots are also found in the words voice, vocalize and vocation.

As you can see in Dave Waltemeyer’s column next to mine, the CHHSM Board of Directors challenged themselves and our task force volunteers to be “doers.” In the area of advocacy, the Board decided it was time for us to “Be A Voice” on a wide range of issues that affect all our member agencies in one way or another. In some cases, our member agencies are affected by all the issues at the same time.

The Program Planning and Evaluation Committee held a generative session during their committee meeting that resulted in four broad categories for our advocacy focus:

  • Social determinants of health.
  • Behavioral health.
  • Access to care.
  • Self-determination.

They also decided to address 10 core issues moving forward:

  • Healthcare access.
  • Senior services.
  • Behavioral health.
  • Children, youth and family services.
  • Developmental disabilities.
  • Addiction.
  • Affordable housing.
  • Homelessness.
  • Food insecurity.
  • Reproductive justice.

While these lists may not be exhaustive, working on all these issues can be exhausting! Why are we even doing this? We are going to do this because it is really important work that will impact the lives of the many voiceless individuals whom we serve in our ministry settings. We are going to do this because we need to join the chorus of all the other organizations who are out there speaking to legislators and administrators on all levels of government. We are going to do this because this is why CHHSM exists. This is what makes an association like ours relevant today and sustainable in the future.

How can this small group of volunteers and staff manage the complexities of addressing all these issues? Where do we begin and what plan should we execute to make our voices heard? The fact is, we cannot do it alone. We must remember the old adage, “many hands make light work,” and we need to come together and take one step at a time.

In the weeks ahead, CHHSM leadership will begin to mobilize the volunteers who signed up for the task force groups. We will create a plan of action and we will make our voices heard. We will ask for your support and we will ask you to join the movement to Be A Voice.