Every summer Congress takes a break and each member of Congress departs Washington, D.C. for their home district. This break dates back to a time when most members of Congress had other responsibilities back home, most notably returning to their farms for harvest. The break, often referred to as August Recess, has evolved into an opportunity for the members to head home and meet with their constituents.
During this year’s August Recess, we encouraged Ambassadors and Advocates to meet with their members of Congress to discuss H.R. 1859 & S.2782, the Ensuring Access to Children’s Specialty Care Act. This piece of legislation will address the national shortage of pediatric rheumatologists by making pediatric sub-specialists, like pediatric rheumatologists, eligible for National Health Service Corps loan relief in exchange for two years of practice in a rural or underserved area. H.R. 1859 and S.2782 will help tens of thousands of children who do not have readily available access to a pediatric rheumatologist.
All around the United States, our Ambassadors and Advocates scheduled meetings with elected officials and turned them into a Champion of Yes. In all, our Advocates scheduled more than 32 meetings with their members of Congress.
In Illinois, Ambassador Cindy Copenhaver persuaded Senator Mark Kirk to sign as a co-sponsor to the bill. Cindy credited this victory to persistence.
“I am more than thrilled that Senator Kirk is a new cosponsor of S.2782,” said Cindy “I had the opportunity to meet with Senator Kirk’s Health Legislative Assistant (HLA) at the 2015 Advocacy Summit followed by a second visit during the 2016 Advocacy Summit and I continued reaching out to the HLA on a regular basis since March to build a relationship. Due to this ongoing relationship, he responded fairly quickly to my August Recess email requests, seemed very interested in S.2782 and shared the good news that the Senator would sign on to the bill! My advice to advocates? Don’t give up! The process may take a while, but persistence can pay off!”
Sometimes the process of building a relationship with your elected official can start with an invitation. After introducing H.R. 1859 to Congressman Frank Pallone (NJ – 6), Advocates Christine Cicio, Peggy Lotkowictz, Candice Donnelly and her son Ryan invited the Congressman to their upcoming local Jingle Bell Run. The Advocates understood they could utilize their Arthritis Foundation events as a way to continue to build that relationship and hope to introduce Congressman Pallone to the arthritis community at this fun and festive event.
After continued efforts by our Advocates in New York including Ambassador Kerry Wong, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand co-sponsored S.2782. Victories like this continue to provide examples that our Advocates can turn a “No” into a “Yes.”
“Though my illnesses continually take so much away from me, being able to use my voice to make a difference is not only empowering … it’s exhilarating,” said Kerry.
Work by our Advocates also contributed to adding both Rep. Gus Bilirakis (FL – 12) and Rep. Mo Brooks (AL – 5) as co-sponsors to H.R. 1859.
As of September 19th, there are now 71 co-sponsors of H.R. 1859 and 5 co-sponsors of S.2782. Each and every one of the co-sponsors did so because they were asked by one of their constituents and our Advocates – someone just like you!, So, please continue to help support the millions of underserved children with arthritis by asking your legislator to co-sponsor these bills.
Learn more about our Advocate program by going to arthritis.org/advocate. Then mark your calendar, March 6-7, 2017, for our next Advocacy Summit in Washington, D.C.!