We all benefit from advocacy
By Rev Paul N. Papas II
tAB nEWSPAPERS nOV 1ST 2007
Framingham – If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it does it make a sound? Every person has a voice, sadly not all are heard. Some are too young, too old, disenfranchised or just silenced.
With many people the focus is on the present, what can you do for me now? Often times the advances of the past get lost in the present. That can be seen all throughout society today.
One example would be the ever increasing divorce rate. All too often instead of working out the difficulties couples choose to move on and seek out a new relationship.
What ever happen to good old-fashion communication? Sometimes it takes work on the part of one or more persons to get things back on track.
Let’s look back a few hundred years. Before it was discovered that surgeons need to wash their hands and clean their utensils between operations many people died as a result of the infections that were passed on from one patient to another.
We did not know that we did not know. Once it was discovered that surgeons needed to thoroughly wash their hands and sterilize their utensils how long did it take for all surgeons to put those new discoveries into practice?
How much resistance was there?
How did it happen?
The first people to hear and believe that cleanliness was a road to healing were advocates. These advocates were considered radicals or fanatics.
From these discoveries came all sorts of advances, such as antibiotics and anesthesia. Would you consent to a hospital operation today without either?
Before you go off on “fanatics” I want all Red Sox fans to raise their hands.
Now realize that the word fan is a shortened version of the word fanatic. Yes, I am a dyed-in-the-wool Red Sox fan and an advocate for people with little or no voice, a voice in the wilderness perhaps.
Sometimes like-minded people get together and organize to advocate for a common goal, such as giving a loud voice to lesser heard voices.
Sometimes that results in having the organization attacked for its goals and work. Those attacks are really upon each individual the organization serves and gives a voice to.
If your home were damaged by fire and was insured you would call your insurance agent to file a claim. After the insurance company inspected and assessed the damage they would make you an offer of settlement.
You may not like the settlement, so you seek help to advocate for your position. You may hire a Public Adjuster or Attorney to speak for you.
Either way you pay for those services.
In the case of people who have a mental illness or disability or some sort most of the advocates are not paid with money, yet both can be very effective.
When it comes to religion, each was started by a person or small group; people listened and believed, then spread the word. Early believers were advocating and sometimes called fanatics.
When help is wanted people seek assistance, whether it’s through 211, 411, 911, or over the internet in this information age, it is possible to find someone who can help. Help is often provided by individuals or groups who have experience in that area.
When you call 911 about a fire you expect trained firefighters. When you call NAMI (The National Alliance on Mental Illness) you expect information and support from advocates.
NAMI is a non-profit organization that advocates for people who need a voice in the community, at the state house or in Congress.
Many of the accomplishments of NAMI help a larger population than they serve. One issue that comes to mind is having health insurance treat the broken arm the same as mental health issue, both are medical issues.
This actually reduces health insurance costs by providing for out patient counseling which is more cost effective than hospital stays.
This also reduces the stigma attached to person who happens to have a mental illness.
The differences between having NAMI provide information and support is certainly much more cost effective than having its 1,200 affiliates and approximate 275,000 members paid by the government.
If the services provided by NAMI or other non-profits were provided by the government then it is likely that when the budget got tight and cuts were needed, it would be one of the first areas to be cut rendering those with little or no voice silent.
Everyone deserves to be heard.
The Rev Paul N. Papas II is a pastoral counselor with Narrow Path Ministries and current president of NAMI Greater Framingham. NAMI Greater Framingham has several support groups, a helpline (508-875-1455) and Educational Meetings all available free of charge.