The Kansas Mental Health Coalition (KMHC), a coalition of over 60 consumer and family advocacy organizations, provider associations, direct mental health service providers, pharmaceutical companies and others who share a common mission dedicated to improving the lives of Kansans with mental illnesses, is looking for volunteers to serve as legislative house district advocates.
"We are looking for people who have a connection to mental health and can serve as a go-between for those who use our services and legislators, who control funding for these services," Rick Cagan, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, part of the KMHC, said. "These volunteers can be individuals who have mental illnesses, a family member or friend of someone with an illness, a mental health professional or even a community member who understands the importance of mental health services."
Advocates will attend an eight hour training session, which will be scheduled at a later date here in Dodge City, to learn the duties and responsibilities of their job, but after that is completed there shouldn't be a big time commitment on a day-to-day basis.
"For the most part advocates will have an occasional phone call, an e-mail here and there or may have to attend a meeting when a legislator is in the area," Cagan said.
The main thing advocates will be responsible for is serving as a source of information for both community members who will use these services and legislators who will decide on legislation that affects these services.
"Many legislators are unaware of how big of an impact organizations like Area Mental Health have on a community," Cagan said. "So it's the job of these advocates to inform them."
Eventually it is the goal of Topeka-based KMHC to have an advocate in each legislative House district in the state. Currently several are set up, but more are needed.
"We want this program to be widespread across the state," Cagan said, "because these issues affect people across the state."
For more information about becoming an advocate for a Southwest Kansas house district visit Area Mental Health at 2101 U.S. Highway 50 bypass here in Dodge City or call (800) 539-2660. Once enough applications have been submitted a training meeting will be scheduled in Dodge City.