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AJLI Public Policy & Advocacy Award


At the 102nd Association of Junior Leagues International (AJLI) Conference on May 17, 2024, AJLI awarded its 2024 Public Policy and Advocacy Award to the Junior Leagues of California State Public Affairs Committee (CalSPAC), which successfully led a co-sponsored policy project in collaboration with Southern California-based nonprofit, Forever Footprints, and its Bill Author's Office, Senator Susan Rubio, representative of California Senate District 22. The bill, Senate Bill (SB) 848 – Reproductive Loss Leave, was formally signed into law by Governor Newsom on October 10, 2023, and went into effect on January 1, 2024.

"We are thrilled to see Senate Bill 848, the Reproductive Loss Leave Act, successfully drafted and passed. This critical legislation acknowledges the profound impact that miscarriage, failed IVF attempts, and other forms of pregnancy loss can have on individuals and families," states Summer Smith, SB 848 Policy Lead and CalSPAC Trainer, hailing from the Junior League of Long Beach. "The passage of this bill is a testament to the tireless efforts of our dedicated team and our commitment to advocating for policies that support women and families in our community." 


This bill idea originated in October of 2022 from a long-running CalSPAC contest called "There Ought to Be a Law" where Junior League members around the state are welcome to submit ideas for policy improvement. This idea was submitted by a sustainer and former president of the Junior League of Orange County California (JLOCC) who sat on the board of the nonprofit Forever Footprints ( Their board and members had noted barriers when they tried to take leave for instances of miscarriage and stillbirth and wanted to seek policy improvements where possible.
The feedback and support received throughout the entire process was overwhelmingly positive. The legislative liaison from the Author's office communicated very little concern or need for direct phone calls or whipping of votes due to this ongoing and overwhelming show of support, which is reflected in each vote count above, with only one "soft" opposing testimony coming from the California Chamber of Commerce (CalChamber) at each hearing. This helped solidify our policy as a true non-partisan/bi-partisan effort, with the most bi-partisan support received compared to other similar and recent legislative efforts presented in Illinois and Utah.











"Senate Bill 848's passage is a powerful example of the strength that comes from collaboration. Building a broad coalition of supporters, from healthcare professionals to labor advocates, was essential in securing bipartisan backing for this critical legislation," says Janelle Greenlee, SB 848 Legislative Lead, CalSPAC Co-Chair, and member of the Junior League of San Jose. "While navigating complex amendments during the legislative process could have been divisive, we prioritized open communication and a focus on the shared goal of supporting Californians experiencing reproductive loss. Ultimately, SB 848's success as the most bipartisan bill of its kind in the US speaks volumes about the unifying power of empathy and the importance of recognizing this often-silenced experience." 
CalSPAC's effort was conducted with 100% volunteer work with minimal and negligible associated costs. This project and its success culminated in the connections and collaboration of diverse stakeholders across the state with multiple Junior League members of various California-based Leagues acting as catalysts for this change. CalSPAC seeks to identify and champion policies that will improve the communities where we live and serve, and this is a prime example of what volunteers can accomplish to make a lasting impact in our state and beyond.



At the 93rd Association of Junior Leagues International (AJLI) Conference on April 18, 2015, AJLI awarded its inaugural Public Policy and Advocacy Award to the Junior Leagues of California State Public Affairs Committee (CalSPAC) for their collective work on maternal mental health. In 2009, CalSPAC learned about maternal mental health disorders through its “There Ought to Be a Law” contest. Junior League of Los Angeles (JLLA) Provisional Britt Bowe, submitted the winning idea to CalSPAC’s contest after reading an article in Self Magazine about an Olympic athlete whose twin sister tragically lost her life due to an untreated maternal mental health disorder. 

CalSPAC utilized community advocacy to influence public opinion and create a grassroots public education campaign. In 2010, CalSPAC worked to develop awareness materials and a social media campaign. Over three years, CalSPAC introduced one bill and two resolutions, resulting in ACR 105 (Nava)(Chaptered 2010) - declaring every May Perinatal Depression Awareness month in California; ACR 53 (Hernandez)(Chaptered 2011) - urges health care stakeholders to invest resources to educate women about perinatal depression risk factors and triggers. In 2011, the California Maternal Mental Health Collaborative was created and is now a separate nonprofit. CalSPAC supported the Collaborative’s sponsored ACR 148 (Lowenthal)(Chaptered 2014), creating the State Commission on the Status of Maternal Mental Health Care.






The Award is shared by many fearless Junior League leaders. Past CalSPAC Co-Chair Julie Elginer spearheaded ACR 105 and the experience proved pivotal in her doctoral dissertation and in her role as an Assistant Professor, Department of Health Policy and Management at UCLA. Past CalSPAC Co-Chair Joy Burkhard drafted ACR 53 and ACR 148, founded the California Maternal Mental Health Collaborative, hosts a national coalition and is starting a state-wide commission. JLLA members September Hill and Tasha Koumaris, helped create the “Speak Up When You’re Down” awareness campaign. JLSF Advocacy member Audrey Symes was instrumental in the development of a national social media campaign. 2014-2015 CalSPAC Co-Chair Caroline Bruister was Nava’s staffer, then decided to join JLSB/JLSF due to her experience with CalSPAC’s work. Past CalSPAC Co-Chair September Hill was inspired by CalSPAC’s work as an assistant and has since held every leadership placement within the Public Policy Council, including Director and CalSPAC Co-Chair. 

“The Junior League and CalSPAC provide members the training they need to conduct advocacy with skill on behalf of our community partners, our focus issues and our mission. The passion for building better communities is what has kept me active in the League the past seven years and excited about the difference a small group of committed citizens can do through collective advocacy efforts,” said September Hill. 

As Dr. Elginer shared, “The Junior League has a 114-year history of tackling some of society’s most vexing problems. This is an example of the power of strategic advocacy to achieve monumental, issue based community impact. Transformational change is possible.”


About the California Maternal Mental Health Collaborative & the Policy Center for Maternal Mental Health

The CMMHC is a separate 501c3 non-profit organization that was formed as a result of the bill CalSPAC sponsored in 2009, Assembly Concurrent Resolution (ACR) 105. The organization has changed its name to Policy Center for Maternal Mental Health, to reflect its work nationally and its core project, the 2020 Mom Project, which the CMMHC sets forth a pathway for change. The CMMHC hosts the National Coalition for Maternal Mental Health and is the organization who is sponsoring the work of the new California Commission on the Status of Maternal Mental Health Care. 

Learn more at

CalSPAC wins AJLI Public Policy & Advocacy Award
SB 848 ceremony 5.jpg
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