On Friday, August 25, 2017, approximately 50 people attended the third meeting in 2017 of the Human Services Advocacy Network (HSAN). The meeting was held at Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry, and featured State Representatives Sarah LaTourette and Emilia Strong Sykes. The meeting afforded the Representatives the opportunity to reflect on recent health-related legislative issues in the just-passed state budget, including the proposed Medicaid expansion freeze and the legislative vetoes, as well as increases in spending on community health issues such as the opioid epidemic. Representatives LaTourette and Sykes then transitioned to important issues that they hope to address between now and the end of the legislative term next year.
Representative LaTourette talked about the Multi-System Youth policy recommendations, which were developed with feedback from The Center for Community Solutions. The policy proposal seeks to assist and support children in the welfare system who are at-risk and need of comprehensive support, instead of being passed along from one agency to another. Additionally, Representative LaTourette spoke of her interest in palliative care, a type of medical care for those with serious illness, which treats the symptoms to increase comfort and may be used along with treatment of the illness. Representative LaTourette specifically cited her own interaction with palliative care, where she saw the positive impact of palliative care for her late father, former Congressman Steve LaTourette, as he battled cancer. Her interest includes the creation of a palliative care advisory board that would advise ways for the state to better educate the public on palliative care issues, as well as promote better understanding of palliative care referrals when made by a physician to patients and their families.
Representative Sykes also addressed key health issues, beginning with her concern about the state of Medicaid expansion in Ohio and the behavioral health redesign, as well as the strained relationship between the State of Ohio and nursing homes —, which continue to face high turnover and struggles with regulatory compliance with the federal government.
The second half of the forum concentrated on audience questions. The questions ran the gamut of health issues, including questions about the statewide ballot initiative known as the Drug Price Relief Act (Issue 2), the rapidly aging senior population, and the ongoing funding uncertainty in the federal budget.
Feedback from attendees was very positive, as attendees said that the forum provided an example of the tone and mutual understanding that is increasingly in short supply between elected officials who represent different political parties. The forum offered an example of how legislators can see things differently on policy issues, but identify areas of common ground that can serve as a foundation upon which to move forward on policy discussions. Both State Representatives are members of the Finance Subcommittee on Health and Human Services, and both have unique insights into the current spending on health care and the long-term impact of decisions.
The Human Services Advocacy Network will continue to identify and cultivate communication with public officials that promotes insight and understanding between policymakers and advocates in the community. HSAN provides the opportunity for state legislators to share their legislative priorities with human service advocates, and equips them with local stories and reliable data that they can take back with them to Columbus or Washington. We appreciate participation by State Representatives LaTourette and Sykes, as well as the attendance and interest of the audience. We look forward to scheduling the final HSAN of 2017 in the very near future.