The NACHC advocacy team is excited to announce the Outstanding Advocate for February 2017—Melissa Noyes Mather, Director of Communications at Family Health Centers, Inc., in Louisville, Kentucky.
Melissa, whose work at Family Health Centers (FHC) supports the 37,000 patients seen annually, has focused her professional career on strengthening the safety-net and improving opportunities for underserved patients. For more than a decade, she’s been a fierce advocate for affordable, quality health care for all. Her work in communications allows her to spread the word about the value provided to the seven communities where FHC sites are located, and about Health Centers more broadly.
For Melissa and FHC, advocacy efforts began ramping up more recently, when they set their sights on achieving ACE status., As Advocates will recall, the Advocacy Center of Excellence (ACE) Program was launched by NACHC in March of 2016 and serves as a roadmap for institutionalizing and operationalizing advocacy at the Health Center level. The Program consists of three tiers- Bronze, Silver, and Gold- that recognize various levels of achievement and success in planning and programming. Health Centers who achieve any status of excellence show commitment to building a solid advocacy foundation and are well-positioned to act quickly when an issue arises that needs advocates to raise their voices and reach out to policymakers and other elected officials.
As part of the FHC advocacy strategic plan, Melissa oversees advocacy as a consistent agenda item at each Board of Governors and Department Head meetings, as well as other staff gatherings. Her mantra is, “if you are not talking about advocacy, no one else will be either.” But more than just talking about relevant issues during meetings, Melissa is also working to train staff to be actively engaged, providing guidance on what advocacy is and what they can and can’t do as employees. After all, effective advocacy is action. She is empowering Advocates at FHC to be comfortable and confident with what they are being asked to do. Melissa believes, and we agree, that this approach will lead to greater success for everyone involved; for Advocates and for the Health Center movement as a whole. “Many of our staff have a powerful message to give to their elected officials about the work we do. I see part of my role is to help give them tools, information and opportunities to communicate effectively about policies and legislation impacting community health centers.”
It is also important to note that Melissa has the support and buy-in from FHC CEO Bill Wagner. Bill has made advocacy an organizational priority, and takes the time to lead by example and encourage staff to be advocates themselves; nearly 300 have joined the Health Center Advocacy Network to date!
We asked Melissa what she would tell those who have yet make advocacy a priority at their Health Center or have questions about getting engaged. “My advice for other organizations is to be committed to the process. It needs to be an ongoing conversation, especially now when there are so many uncertainties facing the health care industry.”
Standing up and creating an advocacy program at your Health Center may seem daunting, but NACHC is here to help! From the tools and resources available online, to the individual support the advocacy team can provide, the NACHC Advocacy Team is here to make sure you are successful in your advocacy efforts!
Congrats, Melissa and the rest of the team on achieving Bronze ACE status. We look forward to seeing more advocacy successes from FHC in the future!
Do you know an Outstanding Advocate who deserves this recognition? Let us know! Email Elizabeth Kwasnik at firstname.lastname@example.org.