Florida Lobby Day: Policy Changes for Mental Health
In what has become an annual tradition, five Miami residents boarded a plane to Tallahassee on February 17 to advocate on behalf of their patients and adequate funding for Jackson Memorial Hospital, the largest safety-net hospital in Southern Florida and largest public hospital in the state. As always, housestaff partnered with nurses from local 1991 SEIU in an effort to build solidarity across the hospital and highlight how important adequate funding was to all employees and patients at Jackson.
The hospitals and clinics at Jackson Health System treat the highest rates of uninsured and Medicaid patients in the state. Although Jackson’s financial outlook has stabilized in recent years, it is only a few years removed from fiscal crisis. The Governor and the state legislature’s refusal to accept federal funding to expand eligibility for Medicaid disproportionately affect the patients who go to Jackson for care, which affects access to prevention and ultimately health outcomes.
Since a majority of the residents were in Psychiatry, sufficient funding for mental and behavioral health was also an urgent topic in their discussions. An estimated 3.9 million Floridians have some type of mental health challenge. Yet the state ranks 49th in the nation in funding mental-health services, spending $40 per person, compared with a national average of $122. The physicians shared their perspective on how insufficient investment in mental and behavioral health was impacting their patients’ ability to manage their conditions and get the help they needed.
“After lobby day I was able to see the politics of medicine can affect our day-to-day and, more importantly, how these policies directly impact our patients’ health,” Dr. Onyinye UgoJi, a Psychiatry resident. “If we don’t get adequate funding, we can’t treat patients.
NY Lobby Day: Healers & Advocates
Social determinants that too often lead to poor health outcomes are a reality that most resident physicians working at safety-net hospitals grapple with every day. On March 2 CIR leaders from New York headed to the state capitol to advocate on behalf of their patients by highlighting the many barriers to care their patients face outside of the hospital.
“So many of the issues we see in our hospital are preventable. If patients have paid leave time, access to quality healthcare and can earn a decent wage, then they don’t have to choose between things like housing and health,”said Dr. Eve Kellner, incoming CIR President, 2016-2017.
The Lobby Day focused on three issues: Paid Family Leave insurance that will ensure that working families have the time to care for themselves and their loved ones who are seriously ill; the Coverage 4 All Campaign, which advocates for statewide health insurance for the 450,000 New Yorkers currently excluded because of their immigration status; and the Fight for $15, which seeks to raise the minimum wage.
Members met in person with Sens. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island) and Jesse Hamilton (D-Central Brooklyn), and with staff from Sens. Terrence Murphy (R), George Amedore (R), Rich Funke (R), Gustavo Rivera (D), Jose Serrano (D) and Assembly member Maritza Davila.
On March 31 the New York State budget was approved, including Paid Family Leave and a plan to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour over the next several years as residents continue to ensure that none of their patients fall through the cracks.