Hello fellow health care advocates!  Mariah Plante here, Kanawha County native, theatre artist, and, most recently, Story Collection Coordinator for West Virginians for Affordable Health Care. If you’ve found your way to this blog it’s because you believe all West Virginians deserve quality, accessible health care, no matter their circumstance. Health Care Advocates come from many backgrounds, in all shapes and sizes. There are many different paths of advocacy: none more important than sharing your lived experience with your community and your lawmakers in order to inspire change. 

This year I found my own path into health care advocacy by taking on the role of Story Collection Coordinator at WVAHC. My goal is to help build a bridge between the media, policy experts, lawmakers, and the real-life working West Virginians who feel the impact of the decisions they make on our behalf. Stories put a human face to abstract issues and offer nuance to complicated policy conversations. By sharing your story, you make sure your voice is heard in those conversations.

Advocacy is a natural extension of what I do as a theatre artist, which is, in its essence, collaborative storytelling. I became interested in Appalachian and rural health care while working as a theatre maker in New York City, where a lot of my creative work became centered on telling Appalachian stories and challenging assumptions about West Virginia that I encountered while living far away from home. 

Returning to West Virginia and joining WVAHC gives me the opportunity to collaborate with storytellers from all over the state and amplify their voices in our collective fight for affordable health care. 

When I’m not on the hunt for health care stories, I continue to work as a teaching artist in my community in Kanawha County. I facilitate acting classes for kids aged 8 up to 18, from many different backgrounds and income levels. I think it’s important to teach young people to express themselves and see their voices as the valuable, powerful tools they are.

Shortly, I’ll share a story from Charles, who is using his voice to bring awareness to the phenomenon known as the “Medicaid Cliff Effect,” faced by Medicaid enrollees who “make too much money” and are no longer Medicaid income eligible because of a new job, a pay raise, a second job, or an increase in work hours. Without Medicaid and unable to afford a private insurance plan, work advances can mean becoming uninsured. 

Thank you for reading my story. I’m excited to hear yours! Share your health care story with me by email at [email protected]