Our advocacy team is incredibly active at the state level, leading the way to make sure that arthritis patients have access to critical medications. Our volunteer Advocates make a significant impact and help achieve tangible results by sharing their stories and asking elected officials to support legislation that is important to them and their families. But beyond fighting for key legislative changes and being vocal in raising awareness and sharing stories that help put faces with arthritis, we also make strides for the arthritis community when we link the voices of patient with the provider community – as we have done recently and successfully in New York and Ohio.
We led a state legislative day in New York the last few years and were thrilled, for the first time in 2016, to co-host the event with the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) and New York State Rheumatology Society (NYSRS). In May, more than 25 patients and family members, providers and practice managers, and Arthritis Foundation and ACR staff spent an empowering day together in Albany, NY. The event began with a briefing on step therapy and biosimilars and continued with a series of forty meetings with legislative offices to seek support for these priority issues. With less than one week left in session, we are still working hard to advance these significant pieces of legislation. In the meantime, we consider this new and powerful patient-provider partnership a success in and of itself! We look forward to continued collaboration throughout the year and at next year’s event.
Dr. Howard Blumstein, Chair of NYSRS Government Affairs Committee, is equally excited about this joint effort, “The New York State Rheumatology Society is enthusiastic about our new partnership with the Arthritis Foundation in our efforts to advance state legislative activities to promote patient access to life-changing therapies and high quality rheumatologist care,” said Dr. Blumstein.
We have collaborated with physicians in Ohio and recently held the third Joint Advocacy and Access Day with the Ohio Association of Rheumatology (OAR). In April, provider and patient Advocates participated in a joint issue briefing about step therapy, prior authorization and biosimilars. An exciting component of the morning involved a few of the bill sponsors, including Sen. Shannon Jones, Rep. Steve Huffman and Rep. Dorothy Pelanda, stopping by to provide legislative updates. Advocates then met in groups before meeting with legislators. In total, there were an astounding 65 attendees – including Advocates, health care providers, legislators, coalition partners and other guests. This collaboration is getting stronger each year and, in doing so, it enables all involved to amplify the concerns of the arthritis community in Ohio.
Stephanie Ott, president of OAR, and Pamela Fields, state director, Advocacy and Access for the Arthritis Foundation, worked closely to plan and implement this program. Fields has seen incredible value in this collaboration, “For the past three years, teaming up with OAR has strengthened our voice in the Ohio legislature,” said Fields. “Dr. Ott and her colleague conducted the issue briefings for the Joint Ohio Advocacy and Access Day. Fourteen physicians and health care providers participated in this year’s breakfast, training and legislative visits.”
We can accomplish more when we work closely with partners that have the same interests in mind. We are thankful for amazing partnerships with the rheumatology community to help move our arthritis advocacy efforts forward. Learn how you can become an Advocate and use your voice to make powerful changes for people living with arthritis.