Richard Napolitano: November 2016 Outstanding Advocate

richThe NACHC advocacy team is excited to announce the Outstanding Advocate for November 2016—Richard Napolitano, Senior Vice President, External Relations/Chief Development Officer at Greater Lawrence Family Health Center (GLFHC) in Methuen, Massachusetts.

Rich got involved with NACHC advocacy in March, when he attended the 2016 Advocacy Leadership Program (ALP) which kicked-off during the 2016 Policy & Issues Forum. He’d recently been charged with ramping up GLFHC efforts on advocacy – ready to hit the ground running, he took the ideas and best practices learned during the conference and throughout the six-month ALP curriculum and brought it all back home to Massachusetts to put plans into action.

Rich, along with fellow Advocacy Coordinator Gia Angluin, have worked hard to implement various programs and initiatives at GLFHC that bolster the organization’s advocacy infrastructure and framework. Three key steps in that process have led to great success for both GLFHC and their advocates. Each of the three serve as best practices that others should think about implementing at their organizations in order to ramp up advocacy efforts.

First, Rich made it a priority to sign up all GLFHC staff and board members as Health Center Advocates. But, because advocacy is more than just having names on a list, everyone (new and existing staff alike) was provided training and education on what being an advocate means and why it is important for every individual to be involved. Being personally invested, as well as understanding why and how taking action impacts your Health Center, are crucial parts of being a successful and effective advocate.

Next, GLFHC established the Advocacy Champions Team (ACT). Rich says, “The ACT serves as the steering committee for advocacy efforts and includes staff, board members, and volunteers from the community.” By including board and community members in the group, ACT gains valuable feedback and input from those who have a slightly different perspective on the Health Center than staff, and this will ultimately help ensure that the ACT is being responsive to issues that require advocacy at all levels- federal, state, and local. In addition, Rich worked hard to incorporate board members and community partners that often underestimate the unique voice they have in speaking to the value of the Health Center in the community; engaging them in this group was deliberate in an effort to empower them as advocates.

The third step Rich and the team took was to establish the Advocacy Rapid Response Team. Per Rich, “The ARRT is a larger group of people [than the ACT] that can be counted on and called upon for immediate action on an issue or topic that needs support. Our goal is to continue to keep them engaged in these efforts and ready to act when it comes time to garner support for the Community Health Center movement.” The ARRT’s first charge was to take action on HR 5667, a bipartisan bill that will make it easier for FQHCs to participate in ACOs; within just a few days, the response to this alert was over 25% (for context, the average national response rate for a health-related action alert is currently only 3%).

Another important factor in GLFHC’s success in advocacy is buy-in and support from leadership, which Rich is fortunate to have from CEO John Silva. John says of Rich, “[His] vision, enthusiasm and focus helped move GLFHC from a health center that paid casual attention to advocacy to an organization that understands the intrinsic value of embedding daily advocacy into our culture and involving our staff, Board and patients as the leaders of our advocacy team.”

In case more evidence is needed that Rich’s efforts to prioritize advocacy have been an incredible success, GLFHC was one of the first Health Centers in the country to achieve Bronze status in NACHC’s ACE Program (currently the only ACE Health Center in Massachusetts), and will shortly be applying for Gold status, thanks in large part to the outcomes and success of the ACT and ARRT.

Kudos, Rich! We look forward to working with you, Gia, and the rest of the team on advocacy efforts moving forward. We will continue to look to you and the whole GLFHC team to set the advocacy bar for the nation – WELL DONE!

Do you know an Outstanding Advocate who deserves this recognition? Let us know! Email Elizabeth Kwasnik at ekwasnik@nachc.org.

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