Illinois Council of Health-System Pharmacists
Best Practice: Advocacy
The Illinois Council of Health-System Pharmacists (ICHP) advocacy efforts are multi-focused and cover both Illinois legislative and regulatory advocacy. ICHP has representation at every Illinois Board of Pharmacy Meeting and has developed a strong working relationship with the staff of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, the Illinois agency responsible for regulating pharmacy practice. ICHP also works closely with the Illinois Pharmacists Association (IPhA) and the Illinois Retail Merchants Association (IRMA) on all pharmacy-related legislative and regulatory activities. ICHP’s relationship with IRMA has benefited greatly from the work of ICHP’s contracted legislative consultant who works year- round in Springfield.
ICHP’s Division of Government Affairs meets monthly, year-round via conference, reviewing proposed legislation and regulation and recommending new changes that will improve patient care and pharmacy practice. ICHP has also established a political action committee, the ICHP Pharmacy Action Fund which collects member contributions to distribute to legislators who have demonstrated a strong understanding of the value that pharmacists bring to Illinois health
care. The ICHP Pharmacy Action Fund Board of Trustees not only determines the disbursement of PAC funds but also recommends, approves and assists with the PAC’s 2-3 fund raising events annually.
Finally, ICHP staff works collaboratively with the IPhA staff to conduct an annual Illinois Pharmacy Legislative Day in March in Springfield. The legislative day event provides bus transportation for students, pharmacists and technicians between all the Illinois Colleges of Pharmacy and the St. Louis College of Pharmacy in Missouri and the State Capitol in Springfield. The day includes lunch and orientation before visits to legislative offices, committee hearings and House and Senate chambers, finishing up with a legislative reception in the evening. Prior to each year’s Legislative Day, the ICHP Executive Vice President visits each college campus and provides a one-hour “Leg Day 101” presentation to prepare students and local affiliate members for participation in the Illinois Legislative Day event.
Primary Intended Outcome(s)
ICHP has developed this multi-focused approach to advocacy increase member awareness and participation in pharmacy-related legislative and regulatory activities. More importantly, ICHP uses these efforts to assure that the practice of pharmacy is fairly regulated to provide optimal patient outcomes using the pharmacists’ skills and education at the highest level possible.
Key Elements of Success
ICHP’s efforts have come a long way over the past twenty-plus years as a result of these critical elements.
- Creation of a broad based volunteer Division of Government Affairs that oversees the legislative and regulatory activities within the State.
- Paid staff attendance at the Illinois Board of Pharmacy Meetings.
- Paid staff collaboration with staff members
of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.
- Contracting with a legislative consultant who works in Springfield and who has and can develop personal relationships with legislators.
- Contracting with a legislative consultant who does not consult for any other health care related organization to prevent potential conflicts of interest.
- Creation of a Political Action Committee that collects and redistributes pharmacy personnel contributions to legislators who have clearly demonstrated a strong understanding of the role the pharmacist can play on the health care team.
How We Promote This to Our Members
ICHP provides its members with a variety of communications related to advocacy using e- mail blasts on specific legislative, regulatory, or fund raising topics. In addition, the ICHP Executive Vice President and contracted Legislative Consultant write a column in each ICHP News Journal the KeePosted titled “The GAS from Springfield”. The GAS stands for General Assembly Story but is also a tongue in cheek jab at the hot air produced so often in the State Capitol. During the Legislative Session the “GAS” normally focuses on pending legislation while during the off-season it more frequently focuses on potential or proposed regulatory changes and fund raising efforts of the ICHP Pharmacy Action Fund. Fund raising efforts of the PAC often raise awareness of members to ICHP advocacy efforts because they are most frequently held at ICHP’s two statewide educational meetings annually.
Tools and Resources Used
ICHP commits a significant amount of resources to make this program as successful as it is.
- ICHP relies on significant volunteer support for both the Division of Government Affairs and the ICHP Pharmacy Action Fund. As many as 35-50 volunteers participate in these activities from a planning, implementation and follow-up perspective. This does not include those who participate in fund-raising events.
- In addition to a part-time legislative consultant, a significant portion of the Executive Vice President’s time is spent on legislative and regulatory activities. These two individuals are employee/contractor and as such are a significant expense to the Council.
- Illinois’ General Assembly has a very user friendly website that makes much of our efforts easier.
- ICHP commits significant resources to support the fund raising activities of the ICHP Pharmacy Action Fund, providing food and beverages, supplies, equipment, prizes and staffing as in-kind contributions to the PAC.
ICHP has used this multi-focused approach to advocacy to improve and expand our impact on pharmacy-related legislation and regulation over the past two decades. The Council is now well respected and very visible in the Capitol and with the State agencies. The efforts must continue in order to maintain and continue to improve these relationships so that, ICHP is the first organization sought out by both legislators and regulators when pharmacy issues arise. Advocacy is a continuous process not an achievable goal by itself.
Suggestions for Other State Affiliates
As Teddy Roosevelt said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” ICHP is extremely fortunate to have paid staff and financial resources for a legislative consultant. But even without that there are many things a State Affiliate can do to establish a successful advocacy program. Here’s a list of steps you can or may have already taken to establish your advocacy program:
- Seek the advice of ASHP’s Government Affairs staff to evaluate your present situation and to help determine the first steps you should take. ASHP can provide strong guidance as you build your advocacy program.
- Establish a Division/Council or Committee of Government Affairs made up of interested and dedicated volunteers.
- Identify one or two dedicated volunteers (if no staff is available) to regularly attend state board of pharmacy meetings. Encourage these individuals to develop a relationship with the Board Executive Director/Liaison/or other Department staff that serve the Board.
- Identify online sources (preferably free) in your state that provides access to all pending legislation and regulation. These will probably be one site for the legislation and a different site for regulation.
- Consider hiring a legislative consultant (lobbyist). To begin, look for an individual or firm that represents a variety of organizations but none in the health care field. Ask several legislators for referrals, not just one, to obtain an unbiased list. Understand that you are paying for their time and reputation. Someone who is not as high profile but well respected may cost you less and give you more for your money.
- Identify members who have relationships with legislators. Leverage these relationships to the maximum at least for the purpose of information gathering.
- Don’t be intimidated by the process. Legislators and bureaucrats are people too and if treated respectfully and honestly will almost always be willing to help. And if you find any dishonesty, drop the relationship immediately, that individual will not last in their position for long.
Future Plans and Goals
ICHP will continue to strengthen its relationships with IRMA and IPhA and build relationships with the Illinois Hospital Association, the Illinois State Medical Society and the Illinois Nurses Association. ICHP intends to continue to grow member awareness and participation in all forms of advocacy and expand efforts to solicit contributions to ICHP’s PAC. Advocacy effort goals for ICHP change every year, often every month and sometimes every day. The process however is not as dynamic and once you have built steps to refine your process, changing and adjusting goals becomes easier.
Special Thanks to the ICHP Division of Government Affairs and ICHP Pharmacy Action Fund Board of Trustees
Frank Kokaisl – Division Director
Kathryn Schultz – Division Director-elect
Jim Owen – Legislative Consultant
Edward Rickert – Past Division Director
George Anna Rechner
Scott Meyers – ICHP Executive Vice President