By Michael Rule, Manager of Public Affairs and Grassroots Advocacy
A few weeks ago, NCPA’s 45th annual Legislative Conference came to a close. While NCPA believes this year’s conference was extremely productive and informative, attendees of the event can better express pharmacist opinions of the value of attending the conference.
During the Legislative Conference, I conducted interviews with four attendees and recorded these sessions on my mobile device. I spoke with Hank Fuhs, representing the Michigan Pharmacists Association and a long time attendee of our conference; Paul and LeeAnn Folden, owners of Corner Drug Store in North Dakota and first time attendees of the legislative conference; and Ravi Davuluri, a pharmacy student at the University of Texas attending his second conference.
In these interviews, each of these attendees highlight the value of grassroots advocacy in general and the importance of face-to-face meetings with legislators or their staff. These attendees were appreciative of the programming offered at the conference, which provided updates on issues such as compounding and implementation of the Affordable Care Act and its potential impact on pharmacies.
For example, Mr. Fuhs commented that he has been attending the Legislative Conference for over 20 years. He also noted he was sure to visit all 16 Michigan Congressional offices during his time in Washington, DC. He also mentioned that if you continue to visit offices—even if the staff turns over—someone in the office remember you.
The Foldens similarly understood the importance of Congressional staff. Mrs. Folden stated that “I feel the real power is getting to know their (Senators/Representatives) staffers because they are the ones that give the information to the Senator and the Representative.” Mr. Folden admitted “I used to be apathetic as far as politics, and now I realize that there’s people on our side that are working for us to help make things better for our business.”
In addition to the opportunity for Hill visits, the continuing education (CE) opportunities were not lost on Mr. Davuluri. He stated “I was able to attend all the CEs and what was particularly interesting to me was the one about compounding and seeing what is going on in legislation following the NECC tragedy, and also being able to meet with my representatives and pharmacists is really beneficial.”
We hope you will take a few minutes to watch these videos in their entirety, and that the experiences expressed in these videos will encourage you to attend future legislative conferences. While the Legislative Conference is a tremendous opportunity to build relationships with Congressional offices, the fact is you can begin to establish these staff relationships at home today. Representatives and Senators have staff throughout their state and district, so you can start by meeting them in one of their home offices . Establishing these in state relationships can prove helpful in securing a meeting with senior staff if you travel to Washington, or even lining up a meeting directly with the member when they are home during a Congressional recess.
Your engagement on important pharmacy issues helps to make a difference. Visit NCPA’s Legislative Action Center to get started.