Reflections of a new Hospice Advocate

As a part of our successful Hill Day 2012, we had many first time attendees. One of the most engaged and excited was Demetress Harrell, Senior Executive Director of Hospice in the Pines in Lufkin, TX. We asked her to talk a little about her first time coming to the Hill.

As I capture the reflections of my time on Capitol Hill I visualize the importance of the Hospice Action Network.

The labor of hospice care is extremely rewarding and presents an exceptional opportunity to enhance the quality of end of life care. However, it is necessary to advocate for changes that will strengthen this remarkable avenue of service. This year, I had the incredible opportunity to be a participant in the Hospice Action Network’s Capitol Hill Day activities. Before my arrival, I laid the groundwork for a successful visit by I submitted a letter to each of the Members of Congress that represent our counties and made a personal call to their local & Washington, D.C., offices notifying them of our upcoming Hill Day. The HAN staff facilitated a unique event. I made several calls to the NHPCO offices to speak with the Coordinators to assure I addressed all of the important elements to make this a successful occasion. The HAN staff (Tony Kudner, Angie Truesdale, & Karen Davis) did a superior job preparing the participants for this amazing day.

NHPCO CEO Don Schumacher and Hospice in the Pines Sr. Executive Director Demetress Harrell

I recognize the importance of promoting hospice among our legislative members and the necessary goals in presenting our requested action. I had visited our Texas State Capitol three weeks prior to our U.S. Capitol visit and discussed the regulatory issues confronting hospice services in Congress; This also helped to prepare me for my Capitol Hill experience. I enjoyed my time in D.C. and was honored by the warm reception from the Hill registration desk to the bus travel to the Capitol. During my time at the U.S. Capitol, I was appointed as the initial spokesperson for our delegation. We met with several Senate and House offices, even sharing pictures with Representative Louie Gohmert and the Chiefs of staff in four of the six offices. We visited the offices of Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Senator John Cornyn, Rep. Michael Burgess, Rep. Michael McCaul and Rep. Louie Gohmert. The most important element that we discussed during our visits was the HELP Hospice Act, and each Congressional Office attentively voiced questions and comments on the legislation. While waiting for the little train to travel from the House to the Senate, I spotted Senator John McCain as he shared a hello and kind wave to our members.

Members of the TX Delegation taking to the Hill

Today we must make an impact among those making the decisions for the future of hospice. From the face-to-face visit requirement to the increased frequency of hospice surveys, we need your voice. Consider the chance to raise your voice at our next Advocacy Intensive or Hill Day event….it will make a difference. Help keep hospice on the front page of our Nation’s healthcare agenda!