View from Washington

 

Telling the Title V Story

By Brent Ewig, MHA
Director of Public Policy & Government Affairs, AMCHP
 

Looking back on the 2009 AMCHP Annual Conference, we continue to be amazed by the stories we heard! There of course are the bad stories — about how state budget cuts are undermining progress on improving health and eroding already fragile public health systems. There are also the inspirational stories about how Title V programs are helping individuals and families live healthier lives and overcome challenges. I think everyone was moved by NFL Hall of Famer Jim Kelly’s story about how his family’s experience prompted a dedication to advocating that “every child be screened, every time, everywhere.” The story of family leaders at the luncheon plenary illustrated how their involvement can enrich our program and policy development. Sharing these stories is essential in explaining what we do and enlisting the support of others to carry on this work. 

We also wanted to express our deep appreciation to those who were able to make visits to Capitol Hill to talk with policymakers about the vital importance of the Title V Maternal and Child Health Services (MCH) Block Grant. While our public health training stresses the importance of using solid data to make our case, that data has no dimension unless we can connect it with the people we intend to serve. A special thanks is in order to all the family representatives who joined this year in sharing your personal experiences and showing policymakers the real life impact the MCH Block Grant has on families and communities across the country.  

The Annual Conference came at a critical crossroads for the future of Title V and the broader health policy of our nation. Just one week after our meeting, the White House hosted a forum on health reform that continues a national dialogue on how to reform our health system in a way that expands coverage, controls costs, improves quality and delivers better outcomes. We know that state MCH programs have a lot to contribute to this debate. We also know that we will not always be invited to the table to share our perspectives and stories, which makes it all the more important that together we seek every opportunity to “invite ourselves” and educate policymakers on the critical work of the MCH Block Grant, and how it can be strengthened in health reform. To this end, AMCHP continues to conduct meetings with key Capitol Hill staff using our Principles for Health Reform to begin a dialogue on how health reform plans can include and strengthen the enabling, population-based, and infrastructure building services that will still be needed even as insurance coverage is expanded.  

As this column goes to press, the U.S. Senate is finally finishing up the FY 09 Appropriations Omnibus, which includes a small $2.6 million increase for the state grants of the Title V MCH Block Grant. While this doesn’t exactly call for dancing in the streets, we are cautiously optimistic that the erosion Title V has suffered over the past few years may have finally stopped. We can now turn our full attention to continuing the push for full funding of $850 million for the Title V MCH Block Grant in the FY 2010 Budget. The White House is expected to release their recommended funding levels for all federal programs in April, and we will again be asking each of you to share your stories about how MCH funding can make a difference in your state and community.  
 

AMCHP Launches Legislative Champions for MCH Award

Last year, AMCHP’s Board of Directors approved a proposal from the Legislative Committee to begin a Legislative Champions for MCH Award Program. The goal of this award is to recognize and celebrate the efforts of members of Congress and their staff to improve the lives and health of mothers, children, and families, including those with special health care needs. At the recent AMCHP Annual Conference we were pleased to announce the first four individuals to be the inaugural recipients of this award: Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard from California’s 34th District, along with Tamar Magarik Haro, a professional staff member for the Subcommittee on Children and Families of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee and Debbie Jessup, Legislative Assistant to Representative Roybal-Allard. 

In 2008, Sen. Chris Dodd led the effort to secure bi-partisan passage of an amendment to the Senate’s Budget Resolution recommending full funding for the MCH Block Grant. He also was one of the lead sponsors of the Newborn Screening Saves Lives Act, which became law on April 24, 2008. This bill establishes grant programs to provide for education and outreach on newborn screening and coordinated follow up care once newborn screening has been conducted. Earlier in his career, Sen. Dodd formed the first children’s caucus in the Senate and spent eight years fighting to enact the Family and Medical Leave Act, which has helped ensure that 50 million Americans don’t have to choose between their job and their family. Representative Roybal-Allard was one of the primary sponsors of the Newborn Screening Saves Lives Act in the House, and has a distinguished record of supporting both legislation and funding for MCH programs. Sen. Ted Kennedy was also awarded the Vince Hutchins MCH Leadership Award at the Annual Conference. 

Ms. Magarik Haro accepted her award at the AMCHP Annual Conference. Due to a busy legislative calendar, neither Sen. Dodd nor Rep. Roybal-Allard were able to come to the conference, but a delegation of AMCHP leaders and staff were able to meet with Sen. Dodd and present his award on Capitol Hill (see photo). A similar award presentation is being scheduled with Rep. Roybal-Allard and Debbie Jessup.

 

 

AMCHP leaders and staff present Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) with the inaugural Legislative Champions for MCH Award. From left – Brent Ewig, Director of Policy; Dr. Phyllis Sloyer, AMCHP President; Sen. Dodd, Dr. Mike Fraser, AMCHP CEO; Nan Streeter, AMCHP Past-President; and Joshua Brown, Senior Manager for Government Affairs.