Featured in the March/April 2018 Colorado Medicine.
Throughout this issue of Colorado Medicine, physicians and advocacy experts have made the case for getting involved in public policy for the benefit of your patients and practice. But where should you start? As chair of COMPAC, the Colorado Medical Political Action Committee, which determines endorsement and support of candidates and legislation, I present four concrete ways CMS members can get involved today.
First, any CMS member in the state can volunteer to be a part of a candidate screening committee. Candidate interviews happen right in a member’s district and, following the interview, the screening committee recommends a candidate for endorsement to COMPAC Board of Directors for final decision. These endorsement decisions must be based on the candidate’s philosophy and positions on medical issues, the candidate’s voting record on medicine’s issues (if the candidate is an incumbent), and the demographics of the district and his or her ability to win – not his or her political party. COMPAC is not a political-party-centered organization; it is a physician- and patient-centered organization – just like CMS.
Then, following the election, local physicians – particularly those who made up the screening committee – are encouraged to reach back to the candidates they interviewed to congratulate them and offer to meet to discuss issues further. In this way, grassroots relationships, which are as important as the issues and often more valuable than financial donations, are fostered.
The 2018 election cycle in Colorado features an open seat for the office of the governor, and open seats in both the Colorado House of Representatives and Senate. Over the next months of this vital election cycle, COMPAC will aggressively pursue the cultivation of the grassroots relationships in as many of these open seats as can possibly be achieved. What we do now, not next January when the 2019 General Assembly convenes, will determine the course of medicine’s agenda in 2019 and 2020. Participate in the COMPAC local candidate screening process and/or pick the candidate of your choice. Learn more by contacting email@example.com.
Second, contribute to COMPAC and become a regular dues-paying member. Dues are the fuel by which we can help support our endorsed candidates. The secure, online payment system is available at www.cms.org/contribute.
COMPAC works side by side with the American Medical Association Political Action Committee, AMPAC, in the national arena and Colorado physicians have the opportunity to conduct candidate interviews of federal candidates, similar to our process on the state level.
Third, increase your involvement by downloading and using the CSAE Colorado Legislative App. This free app, available through your smart phone’s app store from the Colorado Society of Association Executives (CSAE), allows users to find and quickly communicate with their legislators. Those unable to download the app could alternatively identify your legislators and find their contact information through the Colorado General Assembly’s Find Your Legislator tool on their website: https://leg.colorado.gov/find-my-legislator. To use the tool, enter your address information in the search bar located on the left side of the screen, and click the search button.
COMPAC periodically sends email alerts asking members in key districts to contact legislators regarding critical pieces of legislation. When our voice is strong and loud at the capital thorough these grassroots outreach efforts, it does and has made a difference.
Fourth, if you are particularly interested in the public health crisis caused by opioid abuse and misuse, physicians and students can help to reverse the crisis by volunteering to participate on one of 10 subcommittees of the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention. Contact the consortium staff through their website, www.corxconsortium.org. It will also be important to lobby your legislator about any or all of the six bills that came out of the Opioid and Other Substance Use Disorders Interim Study Committee and are currently being considered by the Colorado General Assembly. And any CMS member can join the CMS Committee on Prescription Drug Abuse, which meets periodically in person or by video conference.
As a bonus way to increase your involvement in advocacy in the area that most interests you, I’d encourage you to explore the many opportunities available to engage in your Colorado Medical Society. We need members from all practice settings, life stages and geographic areas to participate in the CMS all-member election by running for office or voting for candidates, join CMS committees or workgroups, develop policy through Central Line, and attend leadership development programs and other CMS events.
You already make a difference in the exam room. Use your expertise to make a difference outside of the exam room as well.