A look inside a successful site visit from your Member of Congress

On September 4th, Arkansas Hospice hosted Congressman Tim Griffin from Arkansas’ 2nd District at their main office in North Little Rock.

It wasn’t the first time Arkansas Hospice staff had met with the Congressman’s office.  Representatives of Arkansas Hospice and Circle of Life Hospice met with the Congressman on Capitol Hill Day in March and other representatives from Arkansas Hospice met with his staff during the Hospice Action Network’s Advocacy Intensive in June.  In both meetings, they invited Rep. Griffin to visit their program when he was back in the district to learn more about hospice first-hand. It’s an important reminder that Hospice Advocacy isn’t a one-time event- it takes persistence and multiple contacts to develop good relationships with your Members of Congress.

Arkansas Hospice CEO Judy Wooten and Rep. Griffin
Speak about the FSHHA Program

Those invitations paid off when Congressman Griffin’s office called them to arrange a visit during the recent recess.  On September 4, Rep. Griffin met with Arkansas Hospice’s CEO, Judy Wooten, as well as other members of their leadership team. They had also identified staff and board members with connections to Rep. Griffin, which helped the Congressman feel personally invested in the work of the organization. They took Rep. Griffin on a brief tour of their offices, and along the way explained in detail the hospice philosophy of care. In the photo above, Judy shows Congressman Griffin how Arkansas Hospice extends its mission beyond Arkansas to provide friendship and support to Seke Rural Hospice in Zimbabwe through FHSSA’s Partnership Program . Because Rep. Griffin has a military background and serves on the House Armed Services Committee, they also told him about what they have done to achieve Level 3 of the We Honor Veterans program and their plans to achieve Level 4.  Rep. Griffin responded very positively to this information, and came away with a deeper understanding of what goes into providing quality end-of-life care both at home and around the world.

Judy and her team not only prepared general background documents on hospice for the Congressman, but they also took the time to develop several program-specific materials with information on what it takes  to provide care in a rural state like Arkansas. These specifics help Members of Congress contextualize what exactly is needed to provide hospice – like the 1.7 million patient miles driven by Arkansas Hospice patient care staff in 2011!

During Rep. Griffin’s time at Arkansas Hospice, he and key hospice staff had a long discussion about the role hospice plays in the health care delivery system-Health Care Reform is something the Congressman clearly feels strongly about. Judy and the rest of the staff were able to talk about the cost-savings of hospice care, citing the 2007 Duke Study, as well as their concerns about the potential impact of current and proposed cuts to hospice reimbursement on quality and access, and how the HELP Hospice Act would create a pilot program to determine the impact of any proposed changes to the hospice reimbursement system before they are implemented . It was a thoughtful and informative conversation, and at the end of it Rep. Griffin said he would review the HELP Hospice Act and consider becoming a cosponsor.

As always, participating in Hospice Advocacy requires a multi-pronged approach.
Two visits from Arkansas Hospice employees to Rep. Griffin’s office in a six-month period laid the groundwork for the site visit.  The site visit laid the groundwork for him to consider cosponsoring the HELP Act.  And in fact, on September 12th, Congressman Griffin became the 61st Member of the House of Representatives to cosponsor the HELP Act. It was about as successful a visit as one could hope for!

This may seem like a lot of work, but as we always mention, we’re here to help. HAN has many resources to help you prepare and carry out a site visit, and we’re always a phone call or email away. If you’d like to work on developing relationships with your Members of Congress, drop us a line at info@nhpcohan.org– we’ll get right back to you!