For Hill Day 2019, respiratory therapists, appointed as Political Advocacy Contact Team (PACT) members by their states, will head to Washington, D.C. on April 9 to lobby their Congressional delegations seeking support for respiratory care. Specifically, PACT members have two important messages for Congressional leaders:
- Co-Sponsor the BREATHE Act/Introduce Senate Companion Legislation
- Protect Patient Access to Liquid Oxygen
PACT Day follows the AARC’s Virtual Lobby Campaign where all members and advocates of the profession are encouraged to contact their elected officials about these issues.
Value of PACT Day and the Virtual Lobby Campaign
“Having the opportunity to represent your state on a national level while fighting for our profession is a privilege and an honor,” said Mandy De Vries, RRT, who represented South Carolina in last year’s PACT Day. “It gives us the opportunity to work together to fight for a better tomorrow for our patients.”
For fellow AARC Member and PACT member Jack Fried, RRT, from Utah, he feels PACT Day and the Virtual Lobby Campaign “lets members of Congress know constituents are interested and concerned about the pending legislation.”
“It also makes them aware of the profession and all that we do,” Fried said.
He believes that many issues he considers “glitches, such as the omission of RCPs from Medicare reimbursement,” happened because of a lack of knowledge of what respiratory therapists do.
PACT Day experience
“I have been truly lucky to have had the opportunity to attend two PACT days and will be returning again this year,” De Vries said. “Getting to discuss the importance of what we do with our government officials is incredible.”
De Vries continued to explain that many congressional leaders have never heard of respiratory therapists.
“By the time we are through talking, many are sharing their personal stories of their family members that struggle with some sort of respiratory illness,” De Vries said.
Fried built relationships with members of Congress through PACT Day. These relationships extend beyond the Capitol visit.
“On one occasion, a member of the Utah congressional delegation was waiting to address an audience at the local senior center,” Fried said. “He recognized me when I walked in and seemed happy to see a friendly face he recognized and to have someone with whom to chat before making his presentation.”
Sometimes these connections show up at your workplace.
“Earlier this year, a congresswoman’s senior legislative assistant in Washington visited my hospital,” Fried said. “He asked the senior executives if I was available and could participate in his tour and subsequent meetings.”
Tips for getting involved in the Virtual Lobby Campaign
“Just do it,” De Vries said. “When I first heard about virtual lobby week, I felt a little intimidated. I wasn’t sure what it meant exactly and was scared because I didn’t know the bills that were being reviewed. I was scared I wouldn’t know what to say or do. But I just took five minutes, read it through and filled out a few simple lines. It was truly as easy as that. Then the year after when I got the opportunity to attend a PACT meeting, I really began to see what power we as respiratory therapists have in evolving our profession not only for ourselves but for our patients and the future of respiratory.”
According to De Vries, taking part in the Virtual Lobby Campaign, “gives us each a voice to make changes on a national level.”
“It’s very simple,” Fried said. “Members of Congress really do want to hear from their constituents, and they really do want to help.”
#AARCLobby kicks off Mar. 27. During this time, you are encouraged to reach out to your elected officials through our “Take Action” system. Stay tuned for more details.