Erin Huldeen is the Program Administrator for Orion ISO and Morning Star Financial Services, she is also the head of the organization’s Consumer Advocacy group. We sat down with her recently to talk about advocacy efforts and how people can get involved in the many things presently going on at the Minnesota State Capitol.
Q: What is the benefit to being involved in the many events taking place at the Minnesota State Capitol?
A: There are many benefits from participating in advocacy events at the Capitol and in your own community. Advocates raise awareness and show that people with disabilities can be active, important members of their community. Advocates show public support of bills and educate policy makers on what is important to people with disabilities in Minnesota.
Q: Do lawmakers/policymakers really listen to what you have to say?
A: Absolutely! I have met with my elected officials many times in person to talk about disability rights and disability policy. This may seem intimidating initially, but our legislators are elected by the people of Minnesota and we have the right to be heard. It is as simple as sending an email to schedule a meeting, or stopping by your representative’s office while at the capitol. To find out who your local officials are click here. Our elected officials want to hear our stories and understand why disability rights matter to the people of Minnesota. Whether it be for staff wage increases, MA reform, cost of living adjustments, or any other reason, our elected officials want to hear from you. You CAN make a difference!
Q: There are a lot of initiatives taking place right now in Minnesota that affect people with disabilities, including the Best Life Alliance. Can you tell us more about this?
A: The Best Life Alliance (formerly known as the 5% Campaign) is a major initiative which supports reform and a rate increase for community-based service in 2016 to address the current workforce crisis. It will ensure better compensation for caregivers, and support quality services that allow people with disabilities and older adults to live as independently as possible in the community. This group is made up of people with disabilities, older adults, caregivers, more than 130 organizations, family members, and advocates throughout Minnesota. To learn more about the Best Life Alliance visit their website here. To support the Best Life Alliance and sign the petition visit the page here.
Q: There are many opportunities coming up in March where individuals can rally at the State Capitol You have participated in these many times. Would you tell us more about these events?
A: ‘Tuesdays at the Capitol’ are sponsored by the Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (MN-CCD). They organize events every Tuesday at the Minnesota State Capitol from March 8 through May 10, 2016. These are wonderful opportunities for individuals with disabilities, their friends and caregivers to meet with legislators and discuss issues related to the disability community. To learn more about “Tuesdays at the Capitol’ or to sign up to attend visit the page here.
ARRM/MOHR also organizes a large group for a Day at the Capitol which will be held on Tuesday, March 15th, 2016
Those interested will join over a thousand advocates to ask legislators to pass a 5% rate increase for Home and Community-Based Services in 2016. To learn more about this event click here.
Our organization is also getting a group together to attend this event on March 15. Anyone is welcome to participate with us! You can learn more here.
Q: What is a typical day like rallying at the Capitol? A:Attending an advocacy event at the Capitol is a very emotional experience and an opportunity to see advocacy at its best. Individuals with disabilities, their families, caregivers, and friends gather to learn about disability policy and share their story with legislators. Our elected officials often provide updates on disability related bills and are willing to meet with individuals to learn how specific policy changes affect the disability community. During specified weeks, hundreds of people gather to learn about different legislative topics and rally in the Capitol’s Rotunda. The Rotunda is full of advocates, legislators, and people who support disability rights. The capitol is active and buzzing with the energy of advocates. Advocates are making their voices heard and showing that the disability community matters. It is a very impressive day and I would encourage everyone to participate in it.
Q: What other things can we do to make a difference?
A: Any and all advocacy work will make a difference. The Consumer Advocacy group regularly writes letters to their legislators and makes their presence known at the Minnesota State Capitol. You can contact your elected official by phone, email, or mail. You can organize a town forum. You can join an advocacy committee, become a part of your local school district group, attend events in the community that support people with disabilities, and educate yourself on the issues occurring in your city, county, and state.
There is also the opportunity to Tell Your Story. Your personal story is the most important piece of information legislators can come away with from your meeting. ARRM can help you prepare and facilitate this by providing you with a one-pager templates for staff, self-advocates and families. This info sheet from Best Life Alliance can also help you prepare your story. It is always good to prepare something in advance to leave behind for your legislator!
Whatever you do or however you decide to get involved its important to know your actions can and will make a difference!
If you are interested in getting involved with any of these events or just want more information on advocacy please contact me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org.