The Power of Advocacy

Since 2004 we've worked to foster strong advocates and amplify community voices. After all, no one will be a better champion for community health issues than the communities themselves. Through the years our advocacy efforts have evolved, leading us to forming our first-ever Exemplary Advocates Cohort in 2018.

We are expanding our support to organizations that prioritize advocacy and are committed to the development of advocates as leaders. In 2019 our first exclusive cohort began to meet regularly as part of the program. This push for greater coordination, we hope, will support advocates' ability to generate progress for many years to come.

Learn more about our advocates in their own words:

Missouri Rural Crisis Center

Missouri Rural Crisis Center

Dina Van Der Zalm & Rhonda Perry

For more than three decades, MRCC has been fighting for and with rural Missouri - to be at the policy table on the issues affecting the health of families, communities, and livelihoods. Our members are predominantly rural citizens (including many farming and ranching families), who stand with us to fight against corporate control of our food systems, health care, and democracy. Sustainable, independent family farms provide healthy food at affordable prices, allowing families to make living wages and get the care they need without running into shuttered hospital doors or medical bankruptcy. This, for us, represents "hope for rural Missouri," and helps our residents envision what life can be when we reverse the trends of systemic disinvestment in these communities. Through our advocacy work, we empower people to protect their water, air, land, health, and communities.

Rural residents' experiences must amount to more than just a preconceived notion or an answer to a survey question - they have to lead us to their own self-identified solutions and shape a narrative for health care and agriculture in rural communities.



Aimee Wehmeier & Kim Lackey

Paraquad's mission is to empower people with disabilities to increase their independence through choice and opportunity. We envision an integrated community in which people with disabilities are valued and participate in all aspects of society. As a center for independent living, we view disability through the social model rather than the medical model. In the social model of disability, the problem lies within the environment, not the individual. Barriers to people with disabilities are created in society through physical, programmatic, and attitudinal barriers. Paraquad helps empower people to find solutions to these barriers. Through our advocacy work we aim to systemically dismantle some of these barriers and give voice to community members who have traditionally been underrepresented.

Planned Parenthood

Planned Parenthood

Alaina Smith & Nikia Paulette

Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri provides health care to over 35,000 people annually and mobilizes an Action Network of more than 86,000 supporters in the state. We are in this work to give individuals the power to take control of their lives, their health, and their future. The patients who count on us for affordable, accessible, compassionate care - those most impacted by a political climate hostile to reproductive freedom - sit at the center of our identity as advocates. We value grassroots advocacy and the myriad of communities and campaigns that make up our advocacy work to protect and advance sexual and reproductive health, rights, and freedom for all Missourians.

Missouri Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence

Missouri Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence

Jennifer Carter Dochler Carter & Matthew Huffman

MCADSV successfully advocates to pass laws and improve policies to address rape and abuse in Missouri. We also secure statewide funding for programs that help victims of rape and abuse.

For more than 35 years, we have worked with lawmakers at the federal and state level to develop public policies necessary to protect the health and safety of victims of domestic and sexual violence. Our public policy work has been - and will always be - focused on the needs of survivors and supporting the service providers that assist them.

Our dedicated public policy team is a fixture at the state capitol, where we advocate for funding, enhanced protections for survivors, and increased accountability for perpetrators of domestic and sexual violence. Practically every law that affects sexual assault survivors has been crafted with the assistance of MCADSV and its members.

We represent the voices of Missouri's survivors. We ensure their stories are heard, and that government responds appropriately to one of the most pressing social justice issues of our time - domestic and sexual violence against women, men, and children.

PedNet Coalition

PedNet Coalition

Annette Triplett & Lawrence Simonson

We are a transportation advocacy organization. We focus on walking, biking, and public transit because they are time-tested tools for improving our community's health, equity, environment, and economic development.

Health. We can build physical activity into our daily routines (without having to go to the gym!) by riding a bike to get to work.

Social equity. We can improve access to jobs and reduce the burden of transportation costs for lower-income people by ensuring that there is a safe network of places to ride a bike to destinations throughout our communities.

Climate change. One of the top solutions to climate change is educating girls, especially in developing countries. How can we educate girls? Give them a bike so they can get to school.

We're not just in this work because we like bikes. Our advocacy why is because we know walking, biking, and public transit are simple solutions to some of the world's greatest problems.

Missouri KidsFirstz

Missouri KidsFirst

Joy Osterly & Jessica Seitz

To advance our mission, our programs and practices are dedicated to ensuring that all adults - including parents, teachers, physicians, lawmakers, and other community members - have the knowledge, skills, and understanding required to advocate on behalf of children who have experienced or are at high risk of experiencing abuse or neglect.

Kids are our future and our most valuable resource, and we must put our actions behind our words. Missouri KidsFirst is committed to building a movement to achieve our long-term vision of a consistent response in our state to child abuse and neglect that provides all children with access to the necessary health and social services to allow them to thrive.

Missouri Primary Care Association

Missouri Primary Care Association

Joe Pierle & Katie Reichard

Our members offer their hearts - compassion, experience, commitment - each day to Missouri's most vulnerable citizens. Similarly, our members get to experience the dedication of Missouri communities as they work to ensure their citizens receive this necessary care. These communities offer their hearts - empowering, inspiring, supporting - health care facilities dedicated to making a positive impact on each and every community in which they serve.

Our members and their communities get to experience that positive impact daily when they interact with individuals receiving much-needed care. These patients present their hearts - gratefulness, tenacity, improvement - to their families and loved ones and, in turn, inform them of the importance of community health centers.

None of this would be achievable if it weren't for the relationships we establish and maintain in both the Missouri General Assembly, as well as with Congress. We look to entities like Missouri Foundation for Health to further facilitate conversations between health care organizations and legislators. These conversations and relationships are what move the proverbial needle and are invaluable when it comes to improving the lives of all Missourians.

Legal Services of Eastern Missouri

Legal Services of Eastern Missouri

Joel Ferber & Jamie Rodriquez

Legal Services of Eastern Missouri is a law firm, but we are also a nonprofit that provides holistic services to our clients. We use a wide range of tools to advance our advocacy on behalf of our clients, whether we are representing an individual in a specific matter or working to improve the system as a whole. We build and leverage personal relationships with state agency staff and community partners, and spend our time at meetings and on calls with the state agency. We also represent our clients at fair hearings when those efforts fail. We engage in more formal administrative advocacy, including submitting comments on proposed rule changes and providing legislative testimony. When necessary, we file suit against the state and others when there are no other avenues left. We view our ability to bring lawsuits as just one tool in our toolbox, albeit a very powerful one. Having this tool enhances our credibility and ability to achieve success when using the other approaches described above.

Operation Food Search

Operation Food Search

Trina Ragin & Sarah Swearer

In our experiences thus far, too often we have seen policies enacted that, while masked as helping people, actually serve to keep entire communities from succeeding, and this is where our advocacy efforts come in. Operation Food Search's mission is to nourish and educate our neighbors in need to heal the hurt of hunger. In order to do that work, we need policies and politicians to figuratively take their feet off the necks of those who are food insecure. As a supreme court justice, Ruth Bader Ginsberg hears a myriad of issues. Relatedly, OFS embraces the importance of intersectionality in our work. Without focusing on other social determinants of health in conjunction with hunger and food insecurity, we will never succeed in our mission.

Thus, a small action figure of Ginsberg serves as Operation Food Search's "why" symbol. Not to mention RBG is also fierce in the face of opposition and steadfast in her values - qualities we hope to emulate through our policy and advocacy work.

Empower Missouri

Empower Missouri

Sarah Owsley & Christina Woody

Our vision is growing a more just, equitable, and democratic Missouri. This means working with many people from many different backgrounds and bringing them together into the important work of social justice.

We weave together many issue areas to examine policy with an equity lens. We work with our partners to view policy both in specific issue areas, but also from a macro view - the real-world implications on people's lives.

Empower Missouri recognizes that mistakes help us grow. Setbacks help us to re-prioritize. A loss this session may turn into an even stronger bill next session. There is opportunity in every situation.

Forward Through Ferguson

Forward Through Ferguson

David Dwight & Karishma Furtado

The systems in place that have created our current state of racial inequity are so complex, so established, and so interconnected that taking steps forward can feel daunting. Like when you find yourself in front of a big blank whiteboard, an open canvas with a scarily infinite number of possibilities. You start with a jumble of ideas and perceptions, disconnected information and thoughts, differing biases and experiences.

We know it will take unprecedented cooperation and collaboration to change St. Louis' inequitable systems and move toward a state in which race is no longer a predictor of life outcomes. Forward Through Ferguson is an advocate and systems change catalyst - here to help existing institutions in the region come together and create the systemic change needed to achieve racial equity.

Missouri Coalition for Community Behavioral Healthcare

Missouri Coalition for Community Behavioral Healthcare

Brent McGinty & Megan Whitehead

Stigma is shrinking as more and more people are bringing diseases of the brain directly into the overall health care arena. Whether law enforcement, emergency rooms, insurance companies, or other health settings, the nation is beginning to realize there can be no separation in the health of both mind and body. It's both morally right and fiscally sound to begin dealing with diseases of the brain just like all other health conditions. When you do that, you produce lives in balance and recovery.

The mission of MCCBH is to enable access to quality mental health services for all Missouri citizens in need of such services, while maximizing their human potential and quality of life. We represent Missouri's not-for-profit community mental health centers, as well as alcohol and addiction treatment agencies, affiliated community psychiatric rehabilitation service providers, and a clinical call center. Through our advocacy work we strive to strengthen and protect the behavioral-health safety net, transform Medicaid in our state, and help promote treatment at the community level.

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