My First Ever Town Hall — But Not My Last

My First Ever Town Hall — But Not My Last
Blog Stories My First Ever Town Hall — But Not My Last

Late last month, Holly Jensen attended her Warrensville Heights town hall to remind Representative Marcia Fudge to #ProtectOurCare. Read more below and to get further involved with Caring Across’s advocacy, please contact Vanessa at

On Feb 25th, a sunny, chilly day in Cleveland, Ohio, I woke up early to make my local town hall, organized by Congresswoman Marcia Fudge. “Look at me,” I thought, “being all civically engaged on a Saturday morning.”

I went because I am one of the 700,000 Ohioans whose lives have been improved by Medicaid expansion (shepherded by our Republican governor John Kasich). In fact, my access to mental and behavioral health care has saved my life, my small business, and, most importantly, my relationships with my loved ones. At this pivotal time in our nation’s history, Caring Across Generations has inspired me and helped me to become a more effective advocate. I’ve always had a surplus of opinions to share, but now I’m learning how to walk the walk.

“Is your first time at a big town hall like this?” I asked a little girl in the aisle. Her grandma laughed and shook her head no. To one side of me was an older woman (first town hall), and on the other, two experienced AARP Ohio volunteers. I get to work with the Ohio Association of Area Agencies on Aging (which advocates for Ohio’s AAAs, older adults, individuals with disabilities, and caregivers) so we chatted it up. I told them I was new to this, and instead of judging me, they were excited for me and cheered me on.

Six hours before the event, I had a sad reminder of the importance of mental and behavioral health. In the middle of the night, I got a call from a friend, a brilliant professional and parent of two, who was relapsing after eight months of sobriety. The harder it is to receive mental and behavioral health care, the more shining stars we stand to lose.

According to local media, over 500 people attended, with overflow standing along every wall. “I didn’t expect it to be this big,” Rep. Fudge said at one point. I thanked Rep. Fudge for pledging to support the ACA, and I asked about practical, concrete ways to support efforts that protect Medicaid and the ACA.

One of the most emotional moments came from those who would be harmed with ACA repeal. One woman’s voice wavered as she spoke of a pre-existing condition she worried would bar her from receiving the care she needs if the ACA is repealed. A man broke down speaking on behalf of his friend battling cancer. She had planned to attend herself, but she took her place because she was at the ER that Saturday morning.

After pausing to compose himself, he continued, “She’s working full time with stage three cancer. She’s doing everything right and she can’t afford to pay her medical bills. She’s a wonderful person. She doesn’t deserve this.”

The man’s devotion to his friend reminded me of something Senator Tim Kaine said during a Senate healthcare panel at which I told my story thanks to support from Caring Across Generations. He said that on November 8, some people were disappointed, while some people were scared. Now, it’s the job of the disappointed to have the backs of those who are scared.

As light snow began to fall, the three women offered me a ride. As we chatted, I got a text from my friend who had relapsed. She was safe and sobering up. She’s still safe. For now. If I needed another reason to fight for quality healthcare for everyone, there it was. It was a reassuring way to end what was my first ever town hall— though I doubt it will be my last.