“Your Friend, or Someone Else’s Friend…”
Those of you who attended the Public Policy webinars on December 5 and 19 know what the title of this commentary means: There are only two kinds of people who are making public policy decisions. They are your friends or someone else’s friends…and if we are not communicating with these policy makers, we can bet that someone else is! In short, policy makers, just as all other people, listen to those individuals whom they have come to know and trust.
Making friends with public policy makers by building a trusting relationship is at the heart of all successful public policy advocacy. As NADSA’s new public policy advocate/ lobbyist in Washington, it is my job to fortify those relationships on behalf of NADSA. But it is also your job. Because, the path to the heart of all successful public policy advocacy is a clear understanding that, as former Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Tip O’Neill famously said decades ago, “All politics is local.”
I can create the message in “legis-speak” and I can carry that message to every office that needs to hear it. I can coordinate the alliances with other organizations and attend the many meetings in DC that are necessary to brand Adult Day Services into the minds of policy makers and their staff. But in the final analysis, when that policy maker looks at me and says, “You know, I’m not hearing a word about this from any of my constituents. Maybe it’s a big issue somewhere, but not in my district,” my efforts become almost meaningless.
Therefore, one of our first tasks in moving the train of NADSA public policy forward is to fill the passenger cars with local advocates who can and will routinely contact the members of Congress and other influential public policy makers who represent you where you live and work. It is your vote, and those that you can influence “back home,” that the policy maker respects and wants to satisfy.
In Washington, in addition to calling upon policy makers and their staff, I have begun working on behalf of NADSA with other individuals who have previously done outstanding work on behalf of adult day services, such as Peter Notarstefano and Jen Dexter, and other national organizations and coalitions, such as the Leadership Council for Aging Organizations, that can and will be helpful to our issues.
In the weeks ahead, I and NADSA will provide you with information and talking points to pass along to the policy makers. We will provide you, from time to time, with information that you generally will not see in the local media until after you receive it from us. On these occasions, you will be “in the loop” before many policy makers are informed and if you pass that information to them through their local offices when we ask you to do so, gradually you will establish a reputation as a valuable friend who “is in the know.” If you have not already volunteered to be a local advocate, please do so by sending an email to me via firstname.lastname@example.org.
As you know, for several years NADSA has been laboring to amend the Medicare Act to authorize adult day services as an option to nursing home placement. Our advocacy message for 2014 will be: “Modernize and Optimize Medicare for Cost Avoidance.” More about this in our next column!
—Sen. Roy Afflerbach, Ret.