Letter to a Representative Letters to congresspeople and other representatives a
Letter to a Representative
Letters to congresspeople and other representatives are generally one-page letters that urge the representative to take action on a particular issue in the letter writer’s community, city, state or country. This assignment is asking you to choose a representative and a substance use-related topic, and write an evidence-based letter requesting XYZ (e.g., policy changes, more funding/resources, etc.).
Choosing a topic that we have already covered in class may be a bit easier since we have already learned about the topic via readings, lectures, class discussions and videos. However, you are definitely free to choose any substance use-related topic you’d like! If you go this route, please email me with a short outline of your idea so I can make sure you’re on the right track. Here are some BROAD topics we’ve already covered or will cover this semester:
• Cannabis/marijuana policy
• Mass incarceration
• Naloxone (opioid overdose reversal medication)
• Needle exchange programs in your city or state
• Treatment access for opioid use disorder
These are very BIG topics—so you want to choose a narrow sub-topic. For example, mass incarceration is a massive problem. It’s not helpful to simply tell the representative to “stop mass incarceration”. How? What approaches do you suggest? How can we tackle this issue and start making a tangible difference? Instead of suggesting “stop mass incarceration”, start thinking about all of the factors that contribute to mass incarceration. Tackle one of those factors!
Note: we have learned about public health perspectives on the above topics, as well as various other viewpoints. You are of course free to take any position as long as you substantiate your position with evidence. Often times, a position isn’t simply yes or no- there are many shades of gray.
For the directions below, I highly suggest you literally check each item off to set yourself up for the strongest grade possible.
Before you start writing:
1) Identify your topic
a. What is the BIG PICTURE issue you want to address?
i. What are the factors contributing to this issue that you can request/suggest actionable change?
ii. Pick one of those factors to focus on
2) What is the status quo concerning your topic in your community (city, state, etc.)? This means you need to know what the current laws/policies/social norms are around your topic. This may be harder for some topics than others. Email me if you need help figuring out this step. This step is crucial because you have to be informed on the topic in order to ask your representative to take the action you are suggesting. For example, if you are advocating to reduce mass incarceration by decriminalizing marijuana and/or other drugs, you have to know the legal status of those drugs in your state and be knowledgeable about the harms associated with your state criminalizing them (e.g., unnecessary arrests and imprisonment, taxpayer burdens, harming families and communities, etc.). Again, reach out to me if you need some more direction on your particular topic.
3) Identify appropriate representative. Which representative would be most effective in addressing your topic?
Requirements for your letter to a representative:
1) General Requirements:
a. Length Requirement: 350-400 words TOTAL (for the whole letter)
b. The letter should not contain quotes – all material should be written in your own words.
c. 1st paragraph: state your position/request/reason for writing the representative
d. If your letter concerns to a specific piece of legislation, be sure to identify it with the legislation information e.g., H.R. XXXX (for a House resolution) or S.B. XXX (for a Senate bill)
2) Address only one issue in each letter
a. Present your 3 strongest points and provide evidence for each
b. Contextualize your issue using two social determinants
3) Evidence-based arguments (THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART for the purpose of this assignment)
a. Use reputable sources to substantiate your points
i. Statistics providing the epidemiologic background on the issue
ii. Scientific evidence that supports your position (published within last 10 years)
1. Google scholar articles (peer-reviewed) – 3 minimum
2. Government agency data, policy organizations/think tanks, etc. – 2 minimum
3. You can use the non-academic articles in class as supporting evidence but not main evidence
4. APA citations (see below for example)
4) Personalize the letter by including examples of the issue affects you/loved ones/community
APA citation info:
In-text sentences that need a citation look like this- author, year (Jaiswal, 2020).
The reference list (bibliography) cites like this:
Jaiswal, J., Griffin, M., Singer, S. N., Greene, R. E., Acosta, I. L., Kaudeyr, S. K., … & Halkitis, P. N. (2018). Structural barriers to pre-exposure prophylaxis use among young sexual minority men: the P18 cohort study. Current HIV Research, 16(3), 237-249.
*TIP: for articles in google scholar, you can copy and paste the APA format citation if you click on the quotation mark icon underneath the title.
You can also visit this great resource for more info on APA citation format: https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/apa_style/apa_formatting_and_style_guide/general_format.html
FIND YOUR CONGRESSIONAL REPRESENTATIVE (you can write other representatives too)
SOME DATA SOURCES TO GET YOU STARTED