Holding Effective Meetings with Your Elected Officials During National Health Center Week

NHCW square1 2014As National Health Center Week 2014 (August 10 -16) approaches, many Health Center advocates have been successful at lining up visits with their Members of Congress onsite at their centers. At time of publication, more than 30 Members of Congress have already confirmed attendance at National Health Center Week events, with event commitments coming in daily.

By introducing Members of Congress and all elected leaders to health center patients, staff, and Boards of Directors, they are able to bear witness to the vital and essential services the health center provides to the community. Furthermore, these visits are a prime opportunity to present your Member of Congress with signed Access is the Answer petitions and letters of Health Center support from elected officials and community supporters. But how can centers take advantage of these visits to make them transformative events that help shift a Member of Congress from a supporter into a true Health Center champion?

Jana Eubank

Jana Eubank, NACHC Associate Vice President for Public Policy and Research

NHCW is arguably the best opportunity Health Centers have each year to educate their members of Congress (as well as state legislators) about the important work of Health Centers in your states. It makes it so much more real for them to see Health Centers in action and observe firsthand the tremendous impact health center staff, clinicians and board members have in communities across the country,” said Jana Eubank, NACHC Associate Vice President for Public Policy and Research. “(Texas) Congresswoman Kay Granger and Senator John Cornyn are great examples of elected officials who have become champions in Congress for the Health Center program and credit their strong support to their direct interaction with Health Centers ‘back home.’ Both members regularly visit health centers and are Co-Chairs of the Community Health Center Caucus in the House and Senate.”

“It’s important to remember that just having an elected official take a tour of the center isn’t always enough to help them truly understand the impact your center has in your community,” she continued. “As a former PCA staffer, I’ve been fortunate to participate in numerous Health Center events with elected officials. Successful events have a couple of common characteristics – members are given time to interact with patients, staff and Board Members and are offered the opportunity to play an active role in the Health Center event. This can be accomplished by setting aside some “quiet time” for them to meet with Board of Directors to discuss issues impacting the Health Center and patients. Or if you are having a health fair or community event put them to work. Let them be a judge in your children’s art contest, assist with food preparation or ask them to help handout school supplies or other items to your patients.”

“Remember, elected officials work hard and also need to have a little bit of fun,” said Eubank. “NHCW is a joyous occasion. Let your member be a part of the celebration and play an active role in your NHCW event this year. You will be amazed at how grateful they will be for being included and how impactful these visits can be in cultivating and strengthening relationships on the ground. A well planned visit can turn your Congressional member from a health center supporter into a health center champion.

As noted by Eubank,the presence of elected officials at Health Centers during National Health Center Week is an extraordinary opportunity. Done well, these visits can lay the groundwork for new relationships with Members of Congress who have little or no history with your Health Center and further strengthen existing connections.

Once confirmed, please let us know about these Congressional visits by emailing grassroots@nachc.com and make sure to post your events on the National Health Center Week website Again, be sure to deliver your signed Access is the Answer petitions and letters of Health Center support from elected officials and community supporters at these meetings. For additional resources, including how to communicate effectively and build a relationship with your elected official, check out the Working with Elected Officials page on the Campaign for America’s Health Centers website.

Terry Langston: Outstanding Advocate, July 2014

NACHC’s advocacy team is excited to announce the Outstanding Advocate for July 2014, Terry Langston, Development Officer for the Center for Family Health (CFH) in Michigan.

Terry joined the CFH staff in November 2013, where he put his 20-plus years of experience in fundraising and nonprofit leadership skills to work. In addition to his formal role as Development Officer, Terry does much of the public relations and social media work for the Center, helping to spread the word about the value of Community Health Centers, and CFH in particular, far and wide.

In March, he attended the NACHC Policy & Issues Forum (P&I) in Washington, DC and participated in the Advocacy Leadership Program (ALP). Held before the start of the conference, the ALP is a day-long, intensive advocacy workshop that teaches participants how to start or strengthen existing advocacy programs at their Health Centers.

Following the P&I, Terry returned to Michigan ready to ramp up CFH’s efforts on NACHC’s Access is the Answer campaign. After collecting over 500 signatures on the Access petition, he set to work on getting letters of support from community partners and local elected officials. His approach to this phase of the campaign was both strategic and deliberate; Terry tailored his message for each audience he approached, and was not only successful in securing more than 15 support letters, but also two resolutions on Access is the Answer from the City Council of Jackson, MI and the Jackson County Board of Commissioners.

Seeing the success of his efforts on the campaign and the buy-in from senior leadership at CFH, including the CEO and Board Chair, Terry turned his efforts toward establishing a patient advocate committee at the Center. The committee members, four of whom are CFH Board Members, will work directly with him on the creation and implementation of a strategy for further engaging local elected officials, additional community partners, and the community at large in Health Center advocacy. The wide support for making advocacy a priority that Terry enjoys plays a large part in the success of the program he has worked to get up and running.

Terry was recommended for the ALP by the Michigan Primary Care Association’s Director of Communications and Grassroots Advocacy, Dana Lawrence. “Through his creativity, can-do attitude, and engaging personality, Terry is doing a tremendous job at activating advocates. He is committed to the Health Center mission, and has been successful at garnering local support for the Center for Family Health, thus helping to raise the visibility of the Health Center Program in Michigan.”

Congratulations, Terry, on being our July 2014 Outstanding Advocate!

 

For more information on how your Health Center can get more involved in the Access is the Answer advocacy campaign, email us at grassroots@nachc.com. Do you know an Outstanding Advocate who deserves this recognition? Let us know! Email Elizabeth Kwasnik at ekwasnik@nachc.org.

Health Centers Successfully Gather Letters of Support from Local Elected Officials and Community Leaders!

On one the most powerful tools that the Access is the Answer campaign employs is the collection of letters support from local elected officials and community supporters. Presented in person to Members of Congress during National Health Center Week when these federal elected officials often visit Health Centers in their districts, these letters of support strongly make the case that community leaders – from mayors to school board members, hospital administrators to religious leaders – stand behind Health Centers and are unified in their call for Congress and the President act to fix the ­­­Health Center funding cliff.

So far, Health Centers have gathered approximately 1300 letters of support from local elected officials and community leaders. Many Health Centers far exceeded the initial request to collect 5 letters of support from local elected officials and 10 from community supporters. What were some of the keys to their success?

Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 10.56.37 AMFor the Lorain County Health & Dentistry Health Centers in Ohio, “Advocacy is part of our culture and we take our advocacy responsibilities very seriously,” said President and Chief Executive Officer Stephanie Wiersma. Lorain County Health & Dentistry Health Centers, which collected 60 local support letters, “reached out to leaders who recognize and value our centers’ role in providing high-quality, accessible care to the community,” noted Wiersma. “We made a conscious effort to craft our requests for written support in a way that efficiently summarized why Health Centers are so important and why we need our elected officials and community supporters. We asked these individuals to print up the letter on their own stationery and then followed up with them on three separate occasions.” Said Wiersma, “ultimately we’re only as good as we can be if we’re responsive and attentive to the current and future needs of our Health Centers.”

Adelante-Surprise-ExtAvein Saaty-Tafoya, Chief Executive Officer of Adelante Healthcare in Arizona ­– which gathered 28 letters – noted that “the Adelante Healthcare board of directors and leadership team/staff were highly engaged and motivated to contact all our partner organizations and elected officials to sign letters of support for Health Center funding. The inspiration behind our success in this effort was Dr. Gary Cloud, Dean of Advancement at AT Still University/SOMA and a co-founder of both the School of Osteopathic Medicine Western Clinicians Network. Dr. Cloud is a self-described ‘Health Center zealot’ and happens to serve on the board of Adelante and chairs the advocacy committee. Together we have shared the NACHC message so that we can secure funding and continue to serve the needs of our communities.”

Sea Mar Community Health Centers in Washington state topped the list by collecting a total of 116 letters. Kristina Hoeschen, SeaMarAdministrative Services Director noted that “both the CEO and Deputy Director at Sea Mar have made advocacy a priority.” Health Center leadership issued a challenge to managers in each of the 10 counties it serves to collect 10 letters of support within a month. “Our clinics are deeply plugged in to their communities and many have cultivated strong relationships therein. As a result, we found elected officials and community supporters were quite responsive to our letter requests.” Furthermore, Sea Mar’s leadership stayed engaged throughout their month long campaign “and, following up on reminders from NACHC, urged clinics to keep up the effort on a regular basis.”

Screen Shot 2014-06-19 at 10.48.11 AMFor Angie Boyles, ACA Outreach and Enrollment Coordinator for the Low Country Health Care System in South Carolina, the tight knit nature of her rural community proved to be a strength in gathering 49 letters of support from local elected officials and community leaders. “With the support of the Health Center management, I did a lot of outreach. I first contacted individuals via email, making the case for Health Centers and explaining the upcoming funding cliff, and then followed up with face-to-face visits.” In many cases, these individuals knew Angie personally, had personal connections with Low County Health Care via friends and family or were patients themselves. In many ways, Low Country Health Care System – one of the few providers in the area – “is the bedrock of the community and people responded to our request for letters of support generously.”

Four different Health Centers, four different stories. But, at each, there were dedicated advocates who are willing to sometimes get out their comfort zone and reach out to community supporters and their elected leaders. Moreover, these advocates were backed-up by Health Center leadership that is committed to a culture of advocacy.

Until the cliff is fixed, the effort to collect letters of support is ongoing. Make it a point at your Health Center to collect 10 letters of support from local elected leaders and 5 from community supporters and then personally deliver them to your elected officials during National Health Center Week (August 10 -16) and MAKE THE CASE for Health Centers. THIS IS A CRITICAL ACTION STEP AND AN ACHIEVABLE GOAL! Once collected, please be sure to report your results using the campaign report form or by emailing us at grassroots@nachc.com.

Only by bringing together the support of Health Center advocates, local elected officials, and community supporters will we be able to send the unmistakable message to the President and the Congress that EVERYONE is paying attention and that this issue is too important to ignore. They must act NOW to fix the funding cliff and ensure that Health Centers receive the funding and resources needed to continue providing high quality care for communities in need throughout the nation.

Health Center Leadership Helps Make the Difference in the Access is the Answer Campaign

The Access is the Answer campaign is now in full swing! By the end of March, health center advocates from across the nation had already gathered more than 87,000 signatures on the Access is the Answer petition asking Congress and the President to fix the Health Centers funding cliff. 67 health centers far exceeded the goal of collecting 500 signatures per center and many more stepped up by collecting signatures by organizing petition drives locally. While it definitely “takes a village” to get a drive like this off the ground, one key to the success of many of the health centers that reached this goal was having the strong support of health center leadership – executive directors, chief medical officers, board members and others – in their advocacy efforts.

Aunt Martha’s Youth Service Center and Health Center

Aunt Martha’s Youth Service Center and Health Center

Marsha Conroy, Director of Advocacy and Policy at Aunt Martha’s Youth Service Center and Health Center in Illinois, made the case to her executive team that – with health centers facing a 70% cut to their grant funding – “advocacy needs to happen. We could not simply make a dent.” Rather than focusing more narrowly on clinical operations, “we all needed to step up and advocate for funding,” she said. Over the course of three staff meetings, Conroy explained the goals of the Access is the Answer campaign, listed targets for numbers of petition signatures, and “asked staff to do their homework by signing the petition themselves and asking ten others to sign on as well.” Ex-board president Bill Wesender took this challenge to heart and went into the center’s waiting rooms to explain the campaign to patients and gather signatures. In the case of Aunt Martha’s health center, the commitment and leadership of this former board president along with clear goals to measure their efforts ultimately lead to the collection of 501 petition signatures and ongoing advocacy success across the organization.

Open Door Family Medical Centers

Open Door Family Medical Centers

At Open Door Family Medical Centers in New York, President and Chief Executive Officer Lindsay Farrell made it a point to educate “staff about how advocacy impacts our ability to increase funding.” She noted that “we included information about advocacy in our new hire orientation,” and as a result, every staff member knows “how we’re connected to state and federal legislators in Albany and DC, and that more funding means more centers, more locations, more programs, and more raises.” Farrell also makes it a point to include information about advocacy efforts like the Access is the Answer campaign in her monthly updates that are sent to all Open Door staff. Part of the advocacy success Open Door has been able to realize has been a result of leadership’s effort to instill a culture of advocacy through the organization and make advocacy a part of everything that goes on at the health center.

Central Virginia Health Services

Central Virginia Health Services

At Central Virginia Health Services, Development Director Sheena MacKenzie said that Executive Director Roderick Manifold “understands how the decisions our elected officials make play out in terms of lives of our patients. He personally devotes the time and engages all levels of the organization in advocacy…and supports positions that support our patients.” MacKenzie notes that in the Access is the Answer campaign Manifold has “shown by example and educated and empowered the staff to take ownership of advocacy” by encouraging everyone to do their best by “trying new things and to be creative in getting people’s interest.” Leading by example, Manifold not only exemplifies the type of advocacy commitment he expects from his staff he also recognizes that EVERYONE involved with the health center, from staff to board members to patients must engage for their advocacy efforts to be successful.

Until the health center funding cliff is fixed, the mission to collect Access is the Answer petition signatures continues and the next steps of the Access is the Answer advocacy campaign remain critical to the future of the Health Centers Program. Think about adopting and adapting some of these strategies at your health center and then try setting advocacy collection goals for the coming months! This is a high-stakes, all-hands-on-deck effort that is most successful when Health Center leadership makes advocacy a core component of their center’s mission and overall culture. If you have questions or need help getting started you can contact the advocacy team at grassroots@nachc.com And don’t forget to report your advocacy efforts and collection numbers on our website or by emailing grassroots@nachc.com.

87,307 Signatures Collected by Health Centers for the Access is the Answer Petition Campaign

The end of the month of March marked a successful launch of the Access is the Answer petition campaign with thousands of advocates at hundreds of Health Centers across the nation rising to the challenge and collecting a total of 87,307 signatures! We are proud to recognize the 67  Health Centers that smashed the goal of collecting 500 signatures per center with Westside Family Healthcare in Delaware (4,500 signatures), Nuestra Clinica del Valle in Texas (4,470), and Peak Vista Community Health Centers in Colorado (3,783) rounding out the top three spots. A full list of the 67 HC’s that achieved their March collection goal can be found at http://www.saveourchcs.org/Petition_Signers.cfm

Peak-Vista-Family-Health-Center-at-Divide-CORandy Hylton, Director of Communications at Peak Vista Community Health Centers, noted that this was a truly collaborative effort “made possible by the commitment of the entire staff, engaged community members, neighbors, and patients.”

Many Health Centers employed creative means to get their message out and round-up signatures. “We created fliers at reception that would capture our patients attention. (Another) key factor was our receptionists who had clipboards at the ready,” said Hylton. Employees at Peak Vista were also given information cards that explained the coming health center funding cliff which the petition asks Congress to address as well as petition sheets that they shared “with friends and community members (while) others attended community events and collected signatures,” Hylton noted.

At Nuestra Clinic De Valle, Outreach Director Christian Muñoz noted that advocates made a conscious effort to ensure that petition signersNuestra Clinica Del Valle knew about the challenges facing Health Centers. “Starting right at the door with our medical greeters, through the front line staff, we read the petition to (our patients) because we wanted them to be informed about the local and national issues that affect them,” said Muñoz. “It was not simply about signatures. It was about having our patients involved in their Health Center and knowing about what’s going on .”

Each advocate who signed the Access is the Answer petition took an important step in making the case for health centers and helped elevate the urgent need for  the President and Congress to address the health centers funding cliff.  The Access is the Answer petition was the first step in an ongoing advocacy campaign to make the case for health centers! Advocates can and should continue to collect Access is the Answer petition signatures at their Health Centers and in their community. If your Health Center did not collect 500 signatures in March, try setting your own collection goal for April and May! Every signature helps, and you can report your numbers anytime on our website or by emailing grassroots@nachc.com.

Advocates should be prepared to begin efforts on the next phase of the Access is the Answer Campaign – the collection of local support letters from local elected officials and community leaders. To learn more, visit the Access is the Answer section of the Campaign for America’s Health Centers website.

Westside Family Healthcare Has Great Success Pushing the Access is the Answer Campaign

- by Chris Fraser, Director of Operations, Westside Family Healthcare, Wilmington, DE

westside-logo1

Westside Family Healthcare has had great success in the last few weeks promoting the Access is the Answer campaign. After hearing the NACHC goal of 500 petition signatures per each grantee, Westside Family Healthcare’s President & CEO, Lolita A. Lopez, FACHE, immediately believed that Westside could double that number and generate at least 1,000 signatures.

Westside operates six medical offices and one dental office, and if each location strived for 100 signatures, the goal would be nearly realized. At a staff meeting at the end of February, Lolita conducted a presentation on the Access is the Answer campaign and shared NACHC’s most recent video featuring Dan Hawkins. Lolita then challenged all of Westside with the petition goal and asked each office for a volunteer to join Westside’s grassroots advocacy team.

Staff members from various disciplines joined the team. Since that time, team members have been hard at work. By the end of March, staff had collected over 4,000 petition signatures.

AITA_TranspSeveral strategies have been key to this success. Petitions with the NACHC “Take Action” sign have been posted at every reception desk organization wide including administrative offices. Reception staff members ask patients to sign when they come in for their office visit. Delivery drivers and individuals coming to the office for meetings are asked to sign. Westside’s Office Managers also decided to utilize any medical assistant not assigned to a provider for a particular session, and these staff members canvas the waiting rooms to ask for signatures. Patients have responded with enthusiasm and have been very willing to support the organization that provides their care. In addition, staff members have also taken this petition home to family members, to their neighborhoods, laundromats, youth sporting events, churches, and farmer markets.

Westside Family Healthcare is excited to continue to spread the message that Access is the Answer!

- NOTE FROM NACHC ADVOCACY STAFF: We are so proud of the folks at Westside Family Healthcare for the TREMENDOUS impact they’ve made on the Access is the Answer campaign. Westside has shown us how successful Health Center Advocacy can be and that EVERY Health Center has the ability to make an impact on important policies with a little planning and creativity. We know that each Health Center is different, so be creative and think about what works best for your Health Center as we continue pushing the Access is the Answer campaign for adequate funding for Health Centers. As always, please let us know what does and doesn’t work for your Health Center by emailing grassroots@nachc.com.

Congressional Briefing Highlights how “Access is the Answer”

1CH_0047

- Jen Taylor, NACHC Federal Affairs staff

On Tuesday, March 18, NACHC convened a briefing on Capitol Hill to bring together Congressional staff and community partners to discuss our new policy brief, “Access is the Answer.”

The report examines the issue of access to primary care, highlighting the tremendous need that remains in America’s medically underserved communities.Panelists at the briefing underscored the report’s findings by sharing real stories of how community health centers are working to meet that need while improving health care quality and reducing overall costs.

1CH_0112

The briefing was an enormous success, with House and the Senate staff filling the room for a lively and thoughtful discussion led by experts from community health centers across the country.

Our all-star panelists included Teresita Batayola, CEO of International Community Health Services in Seattle, Washington; Dr. Gary Wiltz, NACHC Board Chair and Executive Director of Teche Action Board, Inc. in Louisiana; and two outstanding representatives from Central Virginia Health Services, Inc. – Executive Director Rod Manifold and Board Member and consumer, Peggy Scott. Together the group used their extensive and diverse experience to illustrate the myriad of ways community health centers are overcoming barriers to care and providing a lifeline to primary care services for millions of Americans. 

1CH_0019

Attendees were given a copy of the report, as well as a fact sheet that gives a clear overview of exactly who is being impacted by local shortages of primary care providers across the country. NACHC staff also laid out our 2014 legislative priorities to ensure Congressional staff were up to speed on our most pressing policy issues and understand the specific actions Congress must take this year to ensure that health centers can continue to meet the needs of our communities for years to come.

1CH_0029

Get 500+ Access is the Answer Petition Signatures at your Health Center! Here’s how you do it.

  • Guest Blog Post by Dana Lawrence

Dana is the Director of Communications & Grassroots Advocacy at the Michigan Primary Care Association. She’s been thinking about ways to ramp up petition signature collection for NACHC’s Access is the Answer campaign, and here’s what she’s come up with:

In an effort to get Michigan Health Center leadership, staff, and board members thinking about how they can collect 500+ signatures on the Access is the Answer petition by the end of March 2014, we, at Michigan Primary Care Association, put together a list of ideas to get the creativity flowing. We ended up with these 14 ways to encourage others to sign the petition. By no means is this list exhaustive, as we know there are so many innovative strategies for spreading the word – our intention was simply to serve as a catalyst. We look forward to hearing how Health Centers in Michigan and all across the country meet the challenge. How powerful it will be when over 600,000 signatures from patients, partners, staff, board members, and supporters attest that Access is the Answer!

 

AITAPetIdeas