August Recess: Attending Town Hall Meetings
Because Members can be very busy, getting an individual meeting with them, even when you start early, might be difficult. Another great place to engage with them is at scheduled town halls. Members organize these as ways to hear from a number of different constituents at once, but also to present their positions on hot-button issues. Members also use these opportunities to generate some good public relations for themselves and their offices. Social media engagement, including posting quotes and pictures, is acceptable if not encouraged.
- Be prepared
Review PAN’s one pager before going to the town hall. Then, prepare your questions. Make sure to keep your questions brief – most likely, you aren’t going to get much time at the microphone.
- Bring your personal story
Often, adding in just a sentence or two about why the issue is important to you can make an impact. If you’re comfortable, you could share that you are there because you have Parkinson’s or a loved one has Parkinson’s. Tie your personal story into what you’re asking for.
- Be respectful
Discussions at town hall meetings can become heated. It is important to remember to remain calm and respectful toward your Member, staff, and other attendees.
- Go in groups
Having a group of people all interested in the same issue always makes an impression. Reach out to members of your support group to ask them to attend with you. You don’t all have to ask questions, but having many constituents supporting the same issue makes an impression with the Member.
- Find staff members
Everyone will want to talk to the Member directly, but finding the right staff person to talk about your issue with is invaluable. Staff are the ones who take a majority of the meetings, and do the background work on an issue before bringing a recommendation to the Member. Building a relationship with your Member’s staff is essential to your ongoing advocacy work. Before or after the town hall, approach one of the staff members at the town hall and ask who you should talk to about health. You can then connect with the correct staffer and follow up with them to provide more information or share your personal story.
- Leave paper
PAN has prepared a one pager on telehealth for exactly this purpose. This one-pager has more details on the issue and contact information for PAN staff if they have any follow-up questions. You should print this one-pager before going to the town hall and give it to a staff member. You should also leave your contact information and ask for the contact information of the staff.
- Say you will follow up – and then do it
Reinforce your presence and comments by following up via email or phone after the town hall meeting with the staff. Members and staff are doing hundreds of events when they are back in the district – it’s important to remind them of who you are and what you are asking for.
Sample August Recess Town Hall Questions
- Thank you for the opportunity to ask a question. I am here on behalf of myself/family member and the many other people in your district with Parkinson’s disease, the second most common neurological disorder in the United States. Many of us who live in rural areas or who have difficulty traveling don’t have access to the doctors we need and we believe telehealth can be a valuable tool in accessing the right doctors. Unfortunately, Congress passed a law limiting telehealth services covered by Medicare. What are your thoughts on telehealth and Congress acting to remove these restrictions?
- Thank you for the opportunity to ask a question. I am here because I/my family member has Parkinson’s disease, which impacts between 500,000 and 1.5 million Americans. Many of us who live in rural areas or who have difficulty traveling don’t have access to the doctors we need. In fact, 42% of people with Parkinson’s aren’t seeing the correct doctor, which can mean lower quality of life. We believe telehealth can be a valuable tool in accessing the right doctors. Unfortunately, expensive and cumbersome state medical licensure laws often limit doctors from seeing patients across state lines. What are your thoughts on telehealth and Congress acting to remove state licensure barriers?
- Parkinson's disease impacts me, my family, and community. There is a lot of discussion about health care these days, but I want to ask about using technology or telehealth to see specialists. For many with Parkinson’s, access to the right doctors can be difficult. Studies have shown that telehealth can reduce hospitalization and keep people living safely and independently for longer, which are major concerns for the Parkinson’s community. Can you talk about your position on telehealth and any work you are doing to expand access?