“If you ever feel like you are just one person trying to change something, I promise there are hundreds, thousands, if not millions of people out there who feel the same way as you, who want to make a difference” Saira O’Malle
The MassAFP Advocacy Day this year fell on April 11th, allowing family physicians to meet with Senators, Representatives, and staff of their districts, to speak about topics particular to Family Medicine. Advocacy Day by the numbers: 105 participants, 29 cities, 5 residency programs, and 2 medical schools. Representative Bill Driscoll from the 7th Norfolk district provided us an introduction into the new 2-year legislative cycle, how to communicate with our officials, and key items to be covered. Representative Driscoll is on the joint committee on health care finance and is interested in reducing health care costs and making medicines more affordable for the commonwealth. It appears that the day is growing in popularity, so much so, we went over capacity. Please provide feedback so we may continue to grow and provide a value-added experience to those that attend for years to come! Topics covered with our elected officials included the Act to Improve Access to Family Physicians, Nurse Practitioner Scope of Practice, Telemedicine, and Primary care spend topics. Members of the executive committee for the MassAFP met with Majority leader Ronald Mariano, who provided insight, direction, and charge regarding scope of practice concerns facing many groups in Massachusetts.
Advocacy exists in so many forms here in Massachusetts with the MassAFP. If you are looking to make a change at the state level, getting involved with our legislative committee can be as easy as tuning into the monthly legislative phone meeting on the 1st Wednesday or participating in meetings with our legislators at the statehouse. Massachusetts government has just entered the two-year cycle and getting involved now can make a lasting impact. Current topics include workforce, payment reform, scope of practice, opioid abuse, reducing administrative burden, regulatory issues, access issues, residency program funding, Direct Primary Care, sustainability of private practices and Public Health issues. If one is looking at getting involved in the advocacy of important public health projects, we currently have a public health working group who is focusing on Immigration, public housing, and women’s health issues. This working group is led by Hannah Biederman. If substance use disorder is of interest to you, as is many members, and you are looking for resources MCSTAP may be of service for you. The Massachusetts Consultation Service for Treatment of Addiction and Pain (MCSTAP) offers real-time, telephonic professional consultation to primary care providers on safe prescribing and managing care for patients with chronic pain, substance use disorder (SUD), or both. MCSTAP also provides referral information about community-based providers, programs, and services to support patients with these conditions. For a consult, call 1-833-PAIN-SUD (1-833-724-6783), Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
At a National level, the AAFP provides the Family Medicine Advocacy Summit annually and is open to all members. The 2019 summit is scheduled May 20-21 in Washington, DC and registration is still open. In this summit, one will acquire new advocacy skills and access to lawmakers on capitol hill. This is a great networking opportunity to see what types of legislation have been effective in other states and a way to connect with national leadership at the academy level. There is an advocacy toolkit which includes state fact sheets and educational videos of congress 101 and lobbying 101.
If all of this seems overwhelming, remember you put your advocacy skills to the test every day as a family practitioner. I leave you with Theodore Roosevelt’s advocacy recommendation, “Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.”
Jennifer Sparks, MD