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California Treatment Advocacy Coalition Fact Sheet: Tips on Writing Legislators

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CALIFORNIA TREATMENT ADVOCACY COALITION

 

The correct method of address is:

The Honorable (Name of Legislator)
California State (Senate or Assembly)
State Capitol Building Room _____
Sacramento, California 95814

The Salutation -- "Dear Senator (Last Name)" or "Dear Assemblywoman/Assemblyman (Last Name)"

Do:

1- Type or write legibly.
2- Include the bill number in the first few sentences or a reference ("RE:") line above the salutation.
3- Be brief and to the point (one page or less).
4- Use your own words and avoid the appearance of a form letter.
5- Give your reasons for supporting or opposing a bill.
6- Use a personal story, if possible.
7- Be courteous and reasonable (OK to express negative emotions -- but not at legislator).
8- Include a newspaper article/editorial that supports your view.
9- Use correct grammar and short sentences
10- Remember that you probably know more than the legislator about severe mental illness and your bill.
11- Personalize the heading and salutation for each legislator you send a copy of your letter to.

Don’t:

1- Be long winded
2- Be rude or threatening
3- Remind the legislator that you are a taxpayer
4- Use form letters
5- Say, or even hint, that politics is sleazy or dishonorable (no matter what you think).
6- Forget that short letters tend to get read. A few short letters carry much more weight than one long one.
7- Overlook that just a few letters can have a heavy impact.

(Prepared by the California Treatment Advocacy Coalition—CTAC)

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Sample Letter

(For format only--Please use your own words)

The Honorable (Name of your Senator or Assemblymember)
California State (Senate or Assembly)
State Capitol Building Room (#)
Sacramento, CA 95814

Dear Assemblywoman/Assemblyman/Senator _____________ :

AB ____ will reform California’s mental health treatment laws to provide earlier and more continual treatment for people with severe mental illness such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder who are too ill to access services voluntarily. Please support this vital legislation.

My brother, Frank, is like many people with schizophrenia. He does not realize he is ill. We use to think "lack of insight" (anosognosia) was willful denial because of the stigma involved with mental illness. Newer research shows that for many people the inability to recognize their own need for treatment evolves not from denial but from brain dysfunction itself.

Because Frank does not realize he is sick, he sees no reason to accept the services that are available. Instead he revolves through hospitalizations, homelessness and jailings. A supportive, supervised, and mandated outpatient treatment program like the one AB ____ is Frank's only hope. It can bring him treatment, point him towards recovery, and bring him back to us.

I ask you, plead with you, to support AB ____. My brother’s health and future depend on it. Please feel free to contact me for more information.

Sincerely,

(Your name)
(Your address)
(City, State, Zip code)
(Phone number)

***This document was compiled by the California Treatment Advocacy Coalition***

 
 
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