Speaker 1 00:00:20 Hi, everyone. Welcome back to Just a Bite. Today I speak with Brittany Madison of Noble and Steve Wagner of U Cann, Ohio, to talk a little bit about their work, engaging people with lived expertise into public policy and advocacy. Their organizations are really centered around making sure that folks who are affected by certain programs are being in the rooms where decisions are being made. Um, and I thought they would be the perfect people to speak with on that topic.
Speaker 2 00:01:11 Hi, Brittany. Thanks for joining me on Just a Bite. Um, do you mind introducing yourself and giving some background on Noble and the work that you do?
Speaker 3 00:01:22 Yeah, so I'm Brittany Madison, uh, she her pronouns. Uh, my current position at Noble is one of the two organizers, um, noble stands for Northern Ohio, ones for budget legislation equality. Uh, we do, uh, predominantly do work around the state budget as it relates to health and human services and critical needs funding. Our four major focus areas right now are in, have been for a while, are Medicaid, public transportation, kinship care, and ARPA funds. Um, so yeah, we mainly our group of folks impacted by these budget decisions, and we do advocacy work as appropriate to get things changed as it relates. Uh, we're located in, uh, Cleveland, Ohio, but we do statewide advocacy work nonetheless.
Speaker 2 00:02:18 Awesome. Yeah. Um, you guys live, you know, engaging people with lived expertise pretty much every day. Um, and I know, uh, that's becoming a little bit of a buzzword in advocacy and nonprofit circles. Um, and although I'm really happy about the national conversation around making sure that folks impacted by these policies are, you know, at the table or in, in the rooms that, uh, decisions are being made, um, I know that we really have to be intentional, um, about treating these relationships with care and not doing more harm than good. And like I said, noble is a, a really great model for that. So I was wondering how can advocates make sure that we are providing information and especially resources, um, necessary for folks with lived expertise, um, to come to the table where advocacy and policy decisions are made.
Speaker 3 00:03:20 Yeah, so thank you for the opportunity and for the warm introduction. Um, I'd say first and uh, foremost, um, we should involve impacted people in our work. Uh, so we should always be getting impacted people's opinions, feedback, et cetera, whenever possible. Um, understanding there may be some limitations. Any organization, in my opinion, that's doing advocacy work should strive to have an impacted person at the decision making table. Um, I think it's important to let impacted people be the experts that they are. Um, any type of advocacy opportunities are amazing. I would say that storytelling as an advocacy tool is extremely important and extremely effective. So as advocates, we should be constantly encouraging, impacted people to tell these stories, tell their personal stories. Uh, while there may be many ways that we can support the development and the delivery of these stories, in my opinion, the stories themselves should be kept as raw as possible, let people really speak for themselves.
Speaker 3 00:04:24 Um, many lawmakers need to know the truth and who better to tell the truth than though it's impacted by the decisions that they're making every day. Um, the folks I work with at Noble, they're at all levels. Uh, they're far beyond my expertise on a lot of these issues that we're discussing. They're living every single day of their life. Uh, thus when I do work with them to prepare stories, especially for advocacy, I try to keep in mind that they are experts and only add a few facts here and there where needed. Um, and I might help them with addressing the testimony to the right folks or with proper formatting. But outside of that, I let them purely tell their stories as is. Uh, my motto as an organizer is to let people tell you how you can help them and to never assume. Um, another part of that is access.
Speaker 3 00:05:14 So access is key access information. Um, as advocates, we need to make sure that any information that we are providing is comprehensible. Uh, policy can be very scary and intimidating for anyone, not just folks impacted. But, um, when you are collaborating with folks who have previously or currently being impacted by poverty and everything that entails, you have to be even more mindful of, of all the barriers that exist when it comes to accessing information, uh, that is being mindful that folks may have varying literacy levels, methods and styles of communication. I would say just try to be as inclusive as possible with any information that you are providing or any acts that you are making of these folks. Um, just for example, you might have a person that has a cell phone, but that cell phone might have limited minutes or limited texting capabilities. Um, or when you wanna do a survey, uh, you, you have to keep in mind, for example, that you might be surveying order folks, and they might not be as tech savvy.
Speaker 3 00:06:19 So you might want to offer a print version of that survey and or, uh, offer the survey that person in person where, where possible. Um, I'll tell an example. For instance, at Noble, we have a steering committee member, one of our, I believe, nine steering committee members, um, that currently lives in a homeless shelter. Uh, this person does not have a working cell phone and relies heavily on, uh, free texting apps and also has limited, um, internet capabilities. Uh, so with that person, for instance, I have to get extremely creative in my efforts to communicate with them, get information to them, et cetera. Um, it seems like it worked us just to pick them up and take them to the office and drop them off when I'm done, uh, whenever I can facilitate that. But, um, just be mindful of these different, um, barriers. Uh, when it comes to policy in general, we, as advocates try to provide, try to provide as many fact sheets, summaries, one pagers access, et cetera.
Speaker 3 00:07:19 Anything that's necessary for folks to completely understand the information we're trying to relate to them. Uh, the goal here is to make policy simple. Once the, uh, comprehensible information is circulated, uh, we can support and help with the facilitation of safe spaces for folks to discuss ideas and information that we are providing. Um, advocates and policy experts should mostly listen, but be willing to provide insight and strategy, strategy whenever necessary. Um, some helpful information that we can provide when trying to help impact the people gained policy, um, include, like I said before, in fact, he, et cetera. Um, any type of access to lawmakers and decision making rooms that we can provide, such as date and times of hearings, contact information for lawmakers, assistance with writing and addressing and submitting testimony letters, et cetera. And then being able to, with advanced noting notice, let them know of any upcoming advocacy opportunities. Um, if your resources at your organization, uh, allow advocates can support or facilitates for impacted people, such as to the state, city, hall cetera, perspective, hearings, meetings, cetera, all the, the main ways that I think we can be of assistance as advocates. Yeah. Have I missed anything?
Speaker 2 00:08:47 No, those were really helpful and really tangible. Um, I was wondering how, how do you approach, like supporting people with lived expertise in the, you know, emotional parts dealing with reliving possible trauma from their either past experience with their current experiences, and kind of having to reveal their, some of the hardest parts of their lives to either lawmakers or maybe even the media. Um, how do you go about that?
Speaker 3 00:09:21 I, myself, I think that a lot of this is just self awareness. Um, I myself just educate myself on a lot of trauma and things that exist in these communities, mental health, et cetera. Just know what you're getting yourself into when you're going into 'em. Um, I think mostly most people though, they just, even with, you know, a lot of the trauma that they've experienced, et cetera, all they want is a ear. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. They just want support. Just listen. Um, that's key. Hear them out, listen to them, hear their stories, make sure, um, you're letting them know that they're being heard. Um, reiterating that and just being kind, always the normal things you would do at any normal human every day. You know, just be kind.
Speaker 2 00:10:10 Yeah, absolutely. I know that Noble brings together so many diverse experts and stakeholders, both diversity and backgrounds, and also diversity in thought. Um, and, you know, you have so many issue areas that you're handling. Um, how do you balance these competing priorities and work together with a broad coalition, especially during budget season, which I feel like, you know, sometimes it's easier to get competitive than, you know, work together in coalition.
Speaker 3 00:10:43 Yeah, it can be, it can be competitive very hard. You know, working together in general is not the easiest thing with people. Everybody has different ideas, opinions cetera. Um, but I noble we try to be as mindful and strategic as possible with any, any partnerships we, we engage in. Um, you know, we have a strong mission and goal with this to bring the voices of impacted people, uh, to the state budget process. Um, you know, we focus on health and human services and critical needs. Um, so, so while we're setting out to really appease a diverse group of people, we are unified in that we ultimately want more resources in the budget and budgetary, um, decisions being made for low income people and people living in poverty. Um, so like, first and foremost, if, if an organization doesn't seem to line there, we're not even gonna even consider that.
Speaker 3 00:11:38 Um, but then you have an issue where there are some organizations that do align there. Um, they do think that they're, you know, they do ultimately want security and stability for all Ohioans, the differences in, in their methods and how they achieve this goal. Um, and oftentimes what happens is that for political reasons, certain groups can't say certain things or go as far as they might need to go to really bring about change. Um, so I think at Nova what we do is we recognize that, um, so we utilize those people where we can utilize them, but we stay true to our mission and our goal of, you know, economic security for, uh, all Highlands. Um, to some people, you know, we might come off as a little bit more radical or extreme than certain advocacy groups, but in reality, noble is just a bunch of people speaking their truth.
Speaker 3 00:12:34 Thus, um, we're willing in a sense to go a lot further with our words and actions than similar advocacy groups. Uh, and in this world, it's a little, I think that people oftentimes have this idea that they want things to be done politically correct. Um, well, noble is interested in being political. We're not interested in being political. Correct. Um, and it's kinda hard to filter the truth. So if we are having issues, if we can't work with the group, it's usually for reasons like that. But I think if we can keep in mind this goal of, you know, economic security for everybody, then we're able to, we can work with anybody. We haven't seen any issues thus far. Um, and then as stated above, you know, we try to make anything that we have any of our meetings, any of our events as, as successful as possible for everybody. Um, and that makes things a lot easier. Um, and, you know, we're always just checking in with folks, making sure that we are doing our job of letting them be heard, whether it's in a meeting or on the budget or whatever we're working on. So just trying to do those things, I guess that's how we were able to work with the diverse people.
Speaker 2 00:13:51 Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, the best people, the best experts are the ones that are living, um, this every day that are, you know, having to navigate those systems for their families out of necessity. Um, and yeah, we're glad to be a partner with you and Noble, um, and, you know, work for stability, economic stability, and security for all Highlands. I appreciate it. Um, lastly, could you share where the listeners can find you and your organizations work and maybe how they could get involved with Noble if they're interested?
Speaker 3 00:14:31 Yeah. So right now, I think the, the, the one place where you can get all that, there's, there's advocacy opportunities to sign up for. Um, there's all of our social media, there's my contact information and other contact information. If you go to our website, that's www Ohio budget equality.org, um, that's gonna be the easiest place to find all that. But if you have any questions you want answered right away, or you wanna talk to me any time of day, you can email me at Ohio budget equality gmail.com. I'm answering that on a daily basis, so feel free to reach out and I'll be back in contact with.
Speaker 2 00:15:12 Awesome. Thanks so much for talking to me today, Ney.
Speaker 3 00:15:15 Yeah. Thank you for having me.
Speaker 2 00:15:26 Hi, Steve. Welcome to Just a Bite. Um, do you mind starting off by introducing yourself and giving some background on you can and the work that your organization does?
Speaker 4 00:15:39 Sure. Um, this is Steve Wagner. I'm the Executive Director of the Universal Healthcare Action Network of Ohio. We've been around for about 26 years now, and our primary roles is about in assuring that people have access to affordable quality healthcare. So that can mean helping them to get connected with healthcare coverage like Medicaid or the Affordable Care Act coverage. Or it can mean trying to help people figure out what kinda financial assistance policies there are with hospitals. We're trying to make sure that access is fair, um, and appropriate for everyone given their circumstances.
Speaker 2 00:16:24 Awesome. Yeah. Um, and you're a statewide organization, but you have some sort of grassroots, um, organizers and navigators that are on the ground. Um, and I know that you work with a very diverse group of stakeholders, so I was wondering how do you balance all of these competing priorities and work together as a broad coalition? Um, I would assume that a lot of the issues or pain points would be pretty consistent across the state, but I'm sure there are some really unique challenges to meeting people where they're at and accessing healthcare region by region in Ohio.
Speaker 4 00:17:06 Yeah. Uh, so I think broadly it's about, as you said, so what are the priorities and what's important now? Uh, it's a famous novel that talks about the most important, uh, thing is the person in front of you and what they need at that moment kind of thing. So we have deliberately tried to be, um, in places and connected with communities that are gonna generally have the, the greatest needs. So, for example, in the Columbus area, we have very deliberately, uh, tried to find navigators, uh, people that help enroll in the, a aca, uh, in the Somali community, in the Nepali community, um, Spanish speaking navigators, so that we're actually getting into communities that haven't had, uh, a great deal of outreach, certainly in the, uh, language that some, some consider primary, um, and in, in, in ways that are, uh, culturally appropriate. So some of it's really just being there and present and able to listen and able to serve.
Speaker 4 00:18:27 And then the rest of it is what's important at the moment. Right. Well, we're in open enrollment. So from November 1st until January 15th, is people's opportunity to enroll in the aca. And if they don't do so during that time, they have to wait a year unless, you know, they have special circumstances. Special circumstances are like getting married or having a child, or, um, other life kind of changing events, losing a job with coverage. Um, so it's really, really important this time of year that we're spending a lot of our effort on, uh, that open enrollment and being out there and connecting with people. So we're out there flyering, we're going to any events that are there. Uh, sometimes we're sitting in, in a library lobby or, uh, uh, at other places. So it is about letting people know that this is their chance to get healthcare coverage. Cuz unfortunately, without healthcare coverage, oftentimes it's pretty challenging for a person to get healthcare. There are some ways, you know, free clinics, uh, sliding fee scales, federally qualified health centers. But in terms of having good comprehensive coverage and access to care, uh, health insurance is pretty critical. So that's why we're, you know, that's why right now for two, uh, two plus months, that's the most important thing for us and how we'll stay engaged, that's our priority.
Speaker 2 00:20:05 And I think, um, that's a really important, important point to be in those communities, um, that are usually underrepresented. Um, and, you know, having, um, materials that are culturally sensitive and in languages in their primary language, um, and things like that. So that's a great point. I am really excited about the work that you are doing with the, with our association's health team in connecting kids to coverage. Um, and the advisory board that you all are putting together, um, I know it's in a, in the really early stages, um, but I was wondering if you could maybe give some information about the advisory board and some of the work that is being done or will be done, um, in that, in that board setting.
Speaker 4 00:20:56 Yeah. The Connecting Kids to Coverage program is about, uh, ensuring that, uh, kids keep their healthcare coverage and primarily in, in Ohio, that's, that's Medicaid coverage, uh, and assuring that they have that. Um, the good thing in Ohio is across the United States for at least, uh, during this covid era that we've had, uh, people on Medicaid have not been, um, taken off of Medicaid because of, uh, what the public health emergency we will see that come to an end. Um, right now, it might not be until June of 2023, but at some point in time, it's gonna be important that people go through the steps that Medicaid them to prove the doc, you know, provide the correct documents, all that kind of stuff. And we wanna make sure that kids stay connected to that coverage. I will say that, uh, you know, one of the things that, uh, in coalition with partners right now, it's not part of the connecting kids to coverage because, uh, that is about very direct services.
Speaker 4 00:22:08 But one of the things that's out there in advocacy is, uh, trying to assure that kids keep coverage until the age of six. Uh, so if they're on Medicaid, they stay on Medicaid until the age of six, uh, that makes sure that they stay healthy for those first six years that are pretty critical, uh, for their physical and, uh, emotional development. And, you know, it's just, it's a good investment in our future. So connecting kids for coverage is about making sure that kids either get connected if they don't have coverage or helping them to get connected. Some of that can be about making sure parents have coverage, because parents that have coverage are more likely to, uh, uh, make sure that their kids have coverage and they're more likely to use that coverage for primary care. It sits never, so fa, family Health Insurances is a, is a driver for the kids, uh, getting good care.
Speaker 4 00:23:13 Now, the thing is, you know, uh, we don't necessarily know how that works in each community, right? Why people have challenges with coverage or, uh, have challenges in getting care, staying covered, getting enrolled. And so for us to help, uh, the people in the c communities that we're working with, we need to listen. We need to understand what's going on. And that's what the advisory committee is about. So it's about, uh, hearing from the people in the community about the challenges that they have, uh, any potential solutions they see on how to assure that kids remain covered. Um, we continue to look for members to join that advisory committee. Uh, we recognize that, you know, uh, providing your knowledge, providing, uh, your experience and your time, uh, is worth something. And so we actually do provide, uh, uh, what we call stipend, but we, uh, we provide some money for people, uh, that are participating in the advisory committee to help, to offset their, their time that they're giving us and their wisdom and experience. Um, so if there's anybody that's, uh, has a child that's on Medicaid that's interested in participating in that, um, that's in the Columbus area, you know, we'd love to talk to you and see if you could become part of our advisory committee and help us to better understand, uh, the challenges that, uh, a parent with, uh, a child on Medicaid faces.
Speaker 2 00:24:53 Yeah. And I'll, I'll make sure to put that information, um, in the show notes with this episode that people, so that people can connect with that, um, information and connect with us. Um, lastly, what advice do you have for organizations who would like to start, um, engaging people with lived experience of poverty, um, in their advocacy work or, um, start sort of a grassroots, um, a portion of their organization? What, what advice do you have for them?
Speaker 4 00:25:30 Yeah, so one of the things to think about is that, um,
Speaker 4 00:25:38 You're trying to tell their story, not that you're trying to convince them to help you <laugh>. And I say that to say that, for example, um, you might have a survey where you're, uh, asking people to share their opinion of things, and you start out with all this demographic stuff that's not important to them, that's, that's about helping you. What's important to them is being able to talk about the challenges that they have and, uh, that also can be about, um, being very free with how you let them do that. So I'd say, you know, a very tactical recommendation is just, you know, if you're gonna do a survey, give people the opportunity, the very beginning just to say whatever they feel, an open-ended question. You know, what's the big challenge? What's the hardest thing you face? What you know, that kind of piece so that people can, uh, from the very beginning know that you are listening to them and what their challenges are.
Speaker 4 00:26:45 You can ask those other questions farther back if they get to it, if they, you know, feel that they have more to say, they'll do that. Um, I know that's not always, uh, from an epidemiology standpoint of the way you're gonna get complete, filled out surveys, but you know, this isn't, uh, this isn't research. This is about trying to help understand, uh, the community that you're trying to serve. Uh, and you're gonna get that by, um, making sure that everyone feels listened to From the beginning. I had, uh, I, I don't know how many people said it, but it was a thing when I started in public health and working with CDC and contaminated waste sites and, um, risk communication. But, um, it's always been said in those contexts, people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. And so, um, the ideas about us trying to share with a community group about, uh, what's going on with Medicaid or the policy issues is not as important as listening to them about the challenges that they phase, and fully understanding what those mean and what solutions they kinda see. Um, the, the translation of that into policy can happen later on. Um, but the people you're working with need to know that you care about what the experiences are, um, that they have.
Speaker 2 00:28:25 Yeah, I think there's a real trust there too that needs to be built. Um, and that that definitely comes with you listening, um, and giving them an opportunity to what's on their mind instead of, you know, having them into sort of box, you know?
Speaker 4 00:28:43 Right. Yeah, I That's right. Are you a, B, C, or none of the above? Exactly. Right. I, I think as well, um, it's finding the place that the person's comfortable in sharing or advocating. So we, uh, as an organization would prefer fur, that the consumers are very directly connected to the decision makers. And so that can be in personal meetings and coalitions and whatever. I mean, that's the best case scenario for us. If we can do anything to help or facilitate, that's great. And when we get out of the way and let the people with the experience that are the experts, uh, talk about it, you know, in some ways we do a disservice to the, the people that are impacted calling 'em stakeholders, because in many respects, they're experts, and we're not shy about calling a physician or a, or a researcher, an expert, but, uh, we also shouldn't be shy about calling a person with the lived experience, an expert on the issue as well.
Speaker 4 00:29:59 Um, and so we try to get those experts, the people with the load experiences connected, but sometimes they're just not comfortable with that, or they don't have the time, can't travel to Columbus. Uh, the General Assembly Majority does not make it easy for people, uh, to be able to make meetings, to be able to, uh, provide input, uh, in committees. Oftentimes, notices are pretty short and, uh, it's challenging to get down here. There's no opportunity for virtual meetings. Um, and so sometimes we have to carry that message, or sometimes we have to carry that message to the administration.
Speaker 2 00:30:40 Yeah, definitely. Um, yeah, there are many barriers, um, unfortunately in the way there. Um, but I wanna thank you so much for the work that you do and, um, for really bringing those experts, um, whether they're message or whether them themselves to, to share their message with, um, the State House, the administration, um, and the general public. So, um, lastly, could you share, um, where the listeners could find you and your organization's work? Um, your social media website, that sort of thing?
Speaker 4 00:31:20 Yeah, so we go under, um, we call it Cann, uh, which is short for Universal Healthcare Action Network, so U H C A N Ohio spelled out. So, and, uh, that's, uh, dot org is our website. Uh, that's usually our social media handle, whether that's, uh, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, uh, you can usually find us by typing in U H C A N O H I O. So that's, uh, where to catch us. Now. I think we've, uh, one of, uh, my staff has talked about how we need to be on TikTok, but, uh, I, I don't think we've arranged that quite yet.
Speaker 2 00:32:05 Yep. Meet the people where they,
Speaker 4 00:32:15 Yeah.
Speaker 1 00:32:25 I hope you enjoyed my conversations with Brittany and Steve. I think the resounding message and lesson here is to make sure that we are being inclusive and mindful and really just listening to these experts who have to navigate these systems and programs outta necessity to care for themselves and for their family. Um, I think we can take that lesson and really integrate that into our work as advocates. So if you would like to get connected with Noble or you can and their missions, um, I will make sure to leave all of their information in the show notes so that you can get involved. We will talk to you next time.