Photo: 120 NAATP members from 27 states gather for a photo before participating in the association’s first Hill Day. (Photo courtesy NAATP)
Addiction treatment professionals and volunteers in Texas have been meeting for years with state lawmakers to advocate for better policies regarding care of substance use disorder (SUD) patients.
Sherri Layton, La Hacienda’s Outpatient Services Administrator, helped organize that effort. Now she has assisted the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP) to start a similar effort in the nation’s capital.
As a result, about 120 NAATP members from across the country spent May 8 meeting with officials in Senate and Congressional office buildings in Washington, D.C.
Better Treatment is Goal
Meeting person-to-person with lawmakers or their legislative assistants, they provided information that hopefully will result in improved policies regarding the treatment of SUDs.
Mark Dunn, NAATP’s Director of Public Policy, says it had the right impact. “NAATP Hill day was a tremendous success. The feedback has been incredibly positive from members as well as from Congress.”
“This effort helped raise the association’s profile and advanced our goal to provide better treatment to those still suffering.”
While this was NAATP’s first Hill Day, the association¾ through Dunn and other leaders¾has advocated for legislation supporting the industry and its patients for many years. For example, it endorsed parity in insurance coverage for mental health care, a law that Congress passed in 2008.
NAATP members include about 200 individual treatment centers around the country. La Hacienda has been a member since 1995 and our Executive Director, Art VanDivier, just completed a two-year term as chairman of its board of directors.
Training, Then Action
The afternoon before Hill Day, Sherri and other leaders met with participants at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, site of NAATP’s 41st annual leadership conference.
She advised them to keep presentations brief and to the point. Advocates received extra copies of three focus points of interest and background information to leave with the office.
The following morning, the state groups reconvened on Capitol Hill for appointments with the lawmakers’ offices. When possible, each state group went to the offices of both senators from their state, then broke into smaller groups to meet with house members.
Texans Visit Reps, Senators
Texas’ 13 advocates made up the largest of the state groups, followed by New Jersey and California.
Sherri led a part of the Texas group which met with a legislative assistant to Congressman Michael Burgess, the ranking member on the Subcommittee on Health for the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He is also a member of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, before which NAATP Executive Director Marvin Ventrell testified last July.
With Sherri were La Hacienda staff members Janet Blackburn and John Sniffen, and Trustee Frost Readel.
They then joined nine other Texans and visited the offices of Senator Ted Cruz and Senator John Cornyn.
After lunch, the Texas group subdivided again so members could see representatives from their parts of the state. Sherri’s group went to the office of Congressman Chip Roy, who represents La Hacienda’s district. And then Sherri met with a legislative assistant for Congressman Michael McCaul, the representative from the district which includes La Hacienda Solutions in Austin.
Advocacy efforts continued after Hill Day as the NAATP members contacted lawmakers’ home district offices. Their goal is to develop relationships with those staff members and invite them to visit the treatment centers or other operations.
Advocacy Necessary at Both Levels
While much of what impacts what a treatment center does on a day-to-day basis is determined at the state level, policies and overall funding often originate at the federal level.
“There is a difference in the types of things to advocate for with each. Both are important,” says Sherri.
For example, parity in medical and mental health insurance coverage is a federal law. But enforcement was delegated to the states.
“We advocated for passage of the law and have had to continue advocating for enhanced enforcement at both levels.”
Sherri said she hopes that NAATP will repeat Hill Day, but a decision has not been made yet regarding the next one.