LWVA Health Care Committee Annual Report, 2014-2015

The LWVA Health Care Committee continued to work toward a Massachusetts single payer health care plan. Members of the Health Care Committee gave testimony about the rising cost of health care in Massachusetts at hearings in Boston as well as at Senator Rosenberg’s “Senate Listening Tour” (Spring, 20104, Holyoke Community College).

A community program on mental health was the focus of the Health Care Committee from the fall of 2014 to the spring of 2015. The program was titled “Good Mental Health. It starts with a conversation. Join us for the conversation.” It is part of a national effort to dispel myths, breakdown barriers and create greater understanding around mental health issues.

The Area Advisory Board to the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health contacted the League Health Care Committee about hosting this program in the early fall. The responsibilities of the Committee were to find a location, get out publicity and plan the evening. The Department of Mental Health DMH) would provide the speakers for a panel of presenters as well as the materials for audience members to take home. All of the plans would be reviewed by and approved by DMH.

After agreeing to work on this project, the first thing the Health Care Committee members did was to decide upon a location and date. The Unitarian Universalist Society Social Hall in downtown Amherst was chosen for a location; the date was set for March 11, 2015. Then, a flyer was designed that would be eye catching and informative.

Next, the Health Care Committee members brainstormed about all of the area organizations and municipal agencies that we wanted to contact and ask to co-sponsor the event. The reason to do this was two-fold: sending out the “invitations” to co-sponsor would alert these organizations and agencies about the program; and, if they chose to co-sponsor, it would mean they would publicize the program to their members. We generated a list 75 contacts. Each member of the Health Care Committee took a handful of contacts, and we got to work. We collected 30 co-sponsors ranging from faith organizations to civic associations to municipal offices. It was a terrific response.

More than 90 people filled the Social Hall of the Unitarian Universalist Society for the event on March 11th. Representative Ellen Story welcomed the participants. Staff from the Department of Mental Health also addressed the gathering. The high point of the evening was listening to the presentations from the Recovery Learning Community members who each described their unique mental health challenges and the full lives they lead. In small groups after the presentation, audience members shared stories and asked questions. It was a meaningful and very educational evening.

The Health Care Committee members, in the past year, included: Scottie Faerber, Mary Hough, Claire Huttlinger, Rosemary Kofler, Leo Maley, Leslie Nyman, Mary Siano, Diana Stein, Alice Swift and Jackie Wolf.

Jackie Wolf