The first annual AFSP-Alabama Capitol Day event took place in Montgomery on February 21, 2013. Thanks to Senator Tom Whatley, the Alabama Senate declared February 21, 2013 Alabama Suicide Prevention Day, and recognized our organization during the morning session of the Senate. Twenty volunteers from around the state met with over twenty-five Alabama legislators advocating for suicide prevention. Many more legislators, government officials, and lobbyists were educated about suicide prevention throughout the day.
The advocacy day started with training for all volunteers. All volunteers were prepped with information about the organization, issues to advocate for, and advice for effective lobbying. While this training session took place, several board members were sharing breakfast and suicide prevention information with legislators and guests entering the House gallery. Senator Tom Whatley came and addressed the group mid-morning. He presented the resolution declaring the day Alabama Suicide Prevention Day to Area Director Lisa Dunn. After a short visit to the Senate Gallery where the organization was acknowledged, volunteers went in pairs or small groups to meet with their legislators. Volunteers took a break from lobbying to enjoy lunch and a discussion with Kathy House, from the Alabama Department of Mental Health, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services Division. After more meetings with legislators, volunteers left the State House to return to their homes in Birmingham, Dothan, Daphne, Montgomery, and other cities across the state.
The feedback from the event was terrific. Volunteers explained they felt empowered and that they brought attention to important issues. Legislators tended to be very receptive to the volunteers’ message, and volunteers realized that lobbying was easy and fun. The chapter is already looking forward to holding its second annual Advocacy Day next year.