How do we begin to make an impact on state legislation that impacts our practice, our clients, and the public? Two easy ways to make a difference are to 1) give to the PAC, and 2) get to know your own legislators. OPA’s Political Action Committee (PAC) collects donations and then supports legislators who can help improve access to care, reduce violence, and improve educational opportunities. So far in 2019, we have provided funding to several legislators by giving to their campaigns. Usually, we also then have time with the candidate at a fundraising event. These contacts help us to form relationships and provide needed information that can inform their committee work as policies and laws are shaped.
We are able to give about $500 to each candidate. Over the course of a year, we typically receive about $10,000 in donations which are then given to candidates. In contrast to these numbers, other health professions have much more robust Political Action Committees, sometimes giving $10,000 to each candidate with over $100,000 annually to spend. Ohio is not unique in this regard. Psychologists give less to PACs than psychiatrists, physicians, and social workers. I wonder if we are less aware of how interconnected we are with those making laws and shaping policies? Or if we think we are somehow getting our hands dirty by contributing to politicians’ campaign funds. What might prevent you from giving to our PAC?
Both OPA and APA give in a bipartisan manner, seeking out legislators who care about health care and the social determinants of health. Here are some of the legislators the OPA PAC has given to so far this year (with relevant quotes from their official online bios):
- Rep. Beth Liston of Dublin is a physician and faculty at OSU. “A passionate advocate for affordable, high quality healthcare, State Rep. Beth Liston ran for office to bring her knowledge about health and the health impacts of policy to our state government.”
- Rep. Derrick Merrin represents portions of Fulton and Lucas counties. “As Chairman of Health Committee, he has advocated for policies to reduce health care costs, promote price transparency, and better patient access.”
- Rep. Bill Seitz is from Cincinnati. “Throughout his legislative career, Rep. Seitz has been at the forefront of criminal and civil justice issues, leading the effort to reform Ohio’s criminal sentencing laws and eliminate the barriers to employment many nonviolence offenders face following their release from prison.”
- Senator Kenny Yuko is from Cuyahoga and Lake Counties. He previously served as a Representative. “Yuko ran for State Representative in 2004 with the goals of protecting working families, promoting health care access, and improving Ohio’s economic climate. Served on the Committee on Health and Aging and the Committee on Veterans Affairs.”
- Senator Cecil Thomas of Cincinnati previously served on Cincinnati’s City Council. “His most notable success is the Cincinnati Initiative to Reduce Violence (CIRV). This program provided direct resources and outreach services to at risk youth/young adults in Cincinnati’s most troubled neighborhoods addressing the critical problem of violence and crime. The implementation of the CIRV program resulted in a significant reduction of crime and improved community and police relations to which is now being modeled nationally and internationally.” He currently serves on the Education, Civil Justice, and Insurance Committees.
So, I want to encourage you to give to the PAC. Even $20 can make a difference in communicating that we care about these issues.
What are your own legislators doing about issues you care about? Check out their bios and view these Tips for Effective Communication with Legislators! Our Advocacy Committee, led by Dr. Brad Potts, has created these great resources for finding out who your legislators are, establishing a relationship, writing a letter, etc. The first step is just learning about them, and the next step is reaching out. This fall, OPA will have a Legislative Day at the Capitol when you can learn more about how to advocate with your legislators, then visit their offices and attend a social hour. But I encourage you not to wait but to become an active citizen now.
A third strategy for making a difference would be to run for office yourself! I had the pleasure of seeing Dr. Amber Hewitt recently. She was faculty at U of Akron, then had a year-long legislative fellowship through APA and is now looking to run for office herself in the D.C. area. What could we do if we had more psychologists in the State House here in Ohio? One of the goals for our Strategic Plan is to get more psychologists involved in committees or task forces for the state. If you are currently serving on a task force or committee for the state government or if you are serving in a public office (City Council, etc.), please let me know so that we can reach out to you and help others get involved too! You can email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
I look forward to seeing what more we can do for psychology and the public as we contribute, reach out to our legislators, or run for office ourselves!