Advocates Visit State Capitol to Support Legislation

John SniffenAdvocacy

advocates for prevention, treatment and recovery pose on the steps of the Texas Capitol

Caption: Advocates pose on the Capitol’s west steps before visiting with legislators.

AUSTIN – From the outside, Texas’ pink granite Capitol Building may be the architectural embodiment of stillness and peace, but during the state’s biennial legislative sessions it’s a beehive of activity inside.

One hundred and sixty-five supporters of Substance Use Disorder-related issues entered that energetic environment on March 6, Recovery Day at the Capitol, to try and influence legislation before the 86th Texas Legislature.

They visited the offices of 26 senators and 64 representatives to discuss issues relevant to addiction prevention, treatment and recovery.

“Receiving first-hand information from those who provide the services and understand the problems is key in helping legislators make decisions to support relevant legislation,” said Sherri Layton, La Hacienda’s Outpatient Services Administrator who also promotes advocacy at all levels of government.

The advocates morning started with a welcome and information session at First United Methodist Church a block from the Capitol.

State Representative Joe Moody of El Paso advised them to “take this opportunity to be honest and forthright and to express exactly what you want. The one thing we heard over and over again from the [House Select] Committee on Opioid Abuse was ‘Give us concrete ideas.’”

“They’re your representatives. You sent them here,” added Moody. “Make sure they know what’s important to you and what you expect from them.”

Into the Labyrinth

Following a group photo on the Capitol’s west steps, most of the advocates broke into groups by districts for appointments at senators’ offices throughout the Capitol complex. Another group took 30 minutes to visit the House Chamber and be recognized by that body.

In most instances, they met with senators’ staff. Layton had had cautioned them not to be disappointed if an elected official was not present. “Sometimes it’s better to meet with staff. Building relationships with their staff members makes it much easier to connect with them in the future.”

If there was room, they met in the offices. If not, they found an open space in a hallway nearby. Other advocacy groups, lobbyists, groups of school children and tourists roamed the narrow halls of the extension, so it was a bit noisy.

First the Senator

Sherri Layton and Dale Trees, a La Hacienda Alumni Support Representative, were part of a group of mostly Kerr County residents who met with Grace Binger of Sen. Dawn Buckingham’s staff.

They handed prepared list of pending legislation regarding prevention, treatment and recovery to the staff member, and the advocates took turns speaking about them.

Ms. Binger asked questions and noted the advocates’ points. She said she would meet with the senator later and pass along the information.

Another staff member, Business Development Representative David Hutts from La Hacienda-Solutions in Austin, was part of a large group of advocates which met with Sen. Kirk Watson’s staff.

Then the House Member

After lunch, the Kerr County group met in State Rep. Andrew Murr’s office. He too was busy elsewhere, but his staff listened and made notes. As the group was leaving, Rep. Murr came down the hall, and a brief conversation followed.

Murr served on the House Select Committee on Opioid Abuse.

Recovery Day at the Capitol, a regular activity for about 20 years, is a companion event to ABCs of Advocacy, a training session in the fall held before legislative sessions. It helps prepare persons to advocate with lawmakers regarding SUD-related legislation.

La Hacienda Treatment Center and 11 other organizations co-sponsored this edition of Recovery Day. Host organizations were the Texas Association of Addiction Providers, the Association of Substance Abuse Programs, and RecoveryPeople.