Ask Jill
01.21.2020

Do Our Legislators Need to Hear from Us?

Absolutely. We are fortunate here in northwestern Vermont, and in Vermont in general, to have great access to our elected officials. They are our colleagues and neighbors and I have found them typically very open to hearing from their constituents. I believe there is real importance in each of us making our voices heard as individuals, as employers, as advocates, etc. Active discussion with diverse input creates the best environment for effective problem solving.

NMC takes that seriously. While parts of healthcare are governed at the Federal level or in various portions of State government outside the legislature (such as the Green Mountain Care Board [GMCB] and the Governor’s administration), the legislature is a key partner. We appreciate the various opportunities to connect with our local legislators.

At the most recent legislative breakfast, held in Swanton on January 13, two NMC staff members and one of our Board members attended and spoke on different topics as part of the discussion. Janet McCarthy, Executive Director of Franklin County Home Health Agency and new Board Chair at NMC, encouraged the legislators to look closely at the newly released Rural Health Services Task Force Report. This interesting and important report speaks to rural health delivery in Vermont; workforce issues in healthcare; revenue stability for providers; the importance of Care Management; and the opportunities within telehealth. It can be accessed on the GMCB website at: https://gmcboard.vermont.gov/content/rural-health-services-task-force

Amy Brewer, an NMC Health Educator on the RiseVT team, encouraged the legislators to be on the look out for the just-released Youth Risk Behavior Study (YRBS) and Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey (BRFS) that provide a wealth of insight into the health of Vermonters. The Vermont Department of Health press release summarized these two reports, saying, “Newly released data from the Department of Health show that most Vermonters are in good health, and that more adults and young people are taking steps to reduce unhealthy and risky behaviors. At the same time, trends in the use of electronic vaping products among high schoolers, increased rates of marijuana use, a suicide rate that is higher than the U.S. as a whole, and disparities in general health among adults, highlight the public health challenges Vermont continues to face.” Also at the legislative breakfast, NMC VP Jonathan Billings emphasized the importance of maintaining the inpatient psychiatric care provided by the Brattleboro Retreat in the face of pressing financial concerns (that I discussed in a recent column). The Retreat provides 100% of the inpatient child psychiatric beds in Vermont and nearly half the adult inpatient psychiatric beds and no institution in Vermont has the capacity to replace the Retreat. It was good to hear that our legislators were aware of the challenges facing the Brattleboro Retreat and already involved in problem solving discussions at the committee level.

The work of a legislator is difficult. These healthcare topics were not even the main conversation, as I understand it, there was very strong discussion of education issues and transportation issues. Legislators must be informed on many topics to navigate all that comes before them. As involved citizens, we can each help them with facts and perspectives on the issues at hand. Our delegation is open to input. Please take them up on that. You can find your legislators’ contact information online at https://legislature.vermont.gov/ or you can call the Sergeant-at-Arms at the statehouse and leave a message for a legislator to call you back! That number is (802) 828-2228. Also, please mark your calendar for the next Legislative Breakfast, currently scheduled for February 10 at 8am in St. Albans.

– Jill Berry Bowen, RN, NMC’s Chief Executive Officer