I witnessed the North Carolina General Assembly “Opening Day” in the NC House and Senate with feelings of hope during these difficult times. The Opening Day traditionally signifies new beginnings for the NC Assembly and, with this being a new decade, many new legislative members can bring positive change and make a difference in the quality of life for our citizens. For me, this opening session is also a reminder that democracy can work and provide impactful legislation. However, each of us can also play an important part in advancing the quality of life during a pandemic and economic crisis. This is especially important as it relates to the health of our fellow North Carolinians and their families.
Over my years in clinical practice- in various roles as a nurse, health care executive, researcher, legislative liaison in the halls of the US Congress, and yes, as a NC Senate Candidate- I have picked up some key lessons about advancing legislative positive health and health care delivery changes. But, the role that has taught me the most is my caregiver role. My biggest take-away is this: Our elected officials from the local to the State (and National) levels need our help in truly understanding the health needs of our citizens.
Thus, my message –As coalition members, we can make a difference in our community and state by sharing our stories and roles about serious illness with legislators so they can hear the needs, understand the possible policy changes, and take legislative actions needed to help our citizens. I have found very few legislators truly understand the health care delivery system or are overwhelmed by it and avoid the topic. We can help build stronger and trusted relationships with elected officials by making time to have frequent short conversations with them. They are typically pulled in so many directions, you can start out slow and easy!
I see this happening in two ways:
- Establishing an informal relationship with your elected official.
- Following a planned strategic legislative approach from the NC Serious Illness Coalition (coming soon!). The informal approach could be a “call and meet a local elected official” (E.g., your “District” State House Representative or Senator)—developing a trusted relationship. Plan a call for a 3-minute elevator speech on your role, what you have seen on a personal level, and a suggestion (one) that could improve the care of a serious illness situation (health care delivery item or support need such as an electronic End of Life document technology solution).
Find legislator’s names, emails, and phone numbers in the links below:
- NC House, representation by county
- NC Senate, representation by county
- House Standing Committee on Health
- Senate Standing Committee on Health Care
This piece was contributed by Dr. Donna Lake.