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Reflections on the 2020 Advocacy Day

Spring 2020  |  Issue 43

Reflections on the 2020 Advocacy Day
By: Jordan Weil MD

March 4th this year was my first time attending the IPS Advocacy Day. The 40 or so psychiatrists took the bus from Chicago to Springfield and joined up with colleagues from Carbondale, Champaign, and elsewhere in Illinois to advocate for making mental health care a higher priority for our State government, and for improvements to the regulatory environment that affects psychiatric practice. This year, we focused on supporting SB2561 which would increase access by requiring commercial insurance and MCOs to cover tele psychiatry, and opposing several bills related psychology prescribing, in order to increase patient safety.

I expected that meetings with lawmakers would be an orderly sitting in an office after arranging a constituent meeting sort of thing. I was wrong. In fact, the only items on the schedule that actually happened at their appointed times were the comings and goings of the bus. We ran into Dr. Dan Yohanna's Senator, Julie Morrison, outside of an elevator and asked for her support to increased state hospital bed access. We waylaid other lawmakers in hallways and on the stairs. We chatted up another representative after looking for them all day and happening to see them come out of the bathroom from two stories above them near the rotunda. There were some formal events, like Dr. Mahmoud testifying before Senate Insurance Committee in favor of SB2561 and a meeting with a Senate leader, but even these planned events shifted on the schedule.

A few tips that we gleaned (and several that the wonderful IPS staff were kind enough pass along) about advocating at legislature:
- Have a clear request that you can make, but building a personal relationship with the legislator will give you more mileage than just focusing on a single issue.
- Have an elevator pitch focused on how the issue you're advocating about has actually affected your patients, and practice the pitch a couple of times so that you can adapt it on the fly.
- Be flexible. The changing times never being in the office are out of necessity. The legislators work hard and are trying to meet a lot of competing demands on their time.
- Have business cards to make yourself a resource that the legislator might call on in the future for expertise.
- Remember that the same legislator who opposes your position on one bill could be an ally on another in the future. It bears repeating: build relationships.
- Most of all, be an advocate. It's fun and it matters.

A lot of the policy that affects our psychiatric practice and patients is set by the State. I strongly recommend advocating to your legislators if you have changes that you'd like to see in psychiatric practice. There’s more than one way to advocate; you can join us on our next IPS Advocacy Day, use IPS to keep yourself informed on pressing issues and bills, and contact your legislators about supporting or opposing a bill.

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