MSHA members in action.

MSHA Monday: SEAL Update

I’ve been struggling to write a blog about my experience as Montana State Education Advocacy Leader (SEAL) at the recent ASHA CONNECT Convention in New Orleans. What could I possibly write that would come close to the powerful blogs already submitted by my erudite MSHA colleagues? How would I sum up my experience? Should I mention that New Orleans has so much delectable seafood, fascinating architecture and toe tapping music it is overwhelming? Should I urge everyone to check out a summer ASHA Connect because the speakers are all on point and the atmosphere is more laid back and promotes interaction with new friends? Do I try to reach out for more grassroots advocacy and involvement? All of the above!

I discovered something about myself while I was at ASHA Connect. I relish knowing what is going on, how it affects me, how it affects my clients – and you’d think this would be the case with all Speech Language Pathologists and Audiologists.

However, I have discovered something else at MSHA and ASHA Conventions as well – a sort of bystander mentality among some of our colleagues when it comes to advocacy. Obviously this isn’t true of all of us, and I hope it is the exception. There seems to be a sense that issues outside of our direct services for clients and our place of business are just too much to grasp. During our graduate training we were taught that advocacy is within our scope and responsibility, and we may think of it in terms of advocacy for clients but we also need to stand up for ourselves.

I attended great sessions related to schools, medical settings and private practice, and partook in meetings with SEALs from all the other states. We discussed issues directly related to schools, and ways to promote advocacy as related to legislative, regulatory and other public policy affecting us.

ASHA has a plethora of tools available on its website including: strategies for self advocacy, data, strategies for meeting legislators, advocacy for specific federal and state issues, and contact information for legislators in each state.

At the SEAL meetings we learned ASHA has taken a position on the following issues related to education.

-Role of the US Department of Education- Oppose proposals that would abolish and/or significantly diminish the role of the U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) oversight of education policies and programs at the state and local level, which ensure high standards and equitable access to educational opportunities for students across the lifespan.

Parent’s Right to Choose Support a parent’s right to choose the best education for their children and maintain that principles regarding access, funding, accountability, and privacy must be included in any education reform legislation. These principles are core concepts that must be included in any reform.  Parents must be provided accurate information regarding the consequences of choosing to leave a public school including provision of SPED services, due process, qualification of providers, maintenance of adequate funding for public schools, provision of full continuum of both Special education and general ed and uphold equitable access to education for children with disabilities, ensuring funding follows students, and ensure HIPAA and FERPA.

Alice Cogswell andAnne Sullivan Macy Act Oppose the Alice Cogswell and Anne Sullivan Macy Act that would establish a new precedent of placing visual and hearing disabilities ahead of others identified in IDEA by adding specific disability-related mandates and requiring additional resources to accommodate only visual and hearing disabilities.  ASHA opposes this Act because it establishes new precedent of placing visually impaired and hearing impaired students ahead of others identified in IDEA.

Please contact governance@asha.org and let them know whether you support or oppose these positions. More details are available on the ASHA governance page.

I get it. We go to MSHA, AAA and ASHA to learn how to better serve our clients (oh, and to see our Speech and Audiology friends). Holding the client paramount is our duty. But how can we hold our clients paramount if we don’t have the IDEA/ESEA/Medicare/Medicaid funding to do it? How can we hold our clients paramount when our professions are being threatened by lack of federal and local financial support and administrations that don’t see the needs of our clients as vital? How can we hold our clients paramount when our credentials aren’t universally recognized as a benchmark for licensing, providing speech, language and audiologicalservices, and other professional standards?

We have to help ourselves, to help our clients (kind of that whole “Put your oxygen mask on first” thing.) Our MSHA movers and hustlers can not do it all. We cannot continue to assume that someone else will get to it. We cannot continue to run our professional lives with a “want something done-give it to a busy person” mentality. Want to know more about advocacy, for you and your clients? Contact ASHA PAC. Contact leaders in MSHA. Go to the ASHA website. Contact your SEAL (Janis Hayes-Strom at hayes-stromj@billingsschools.org). Contact your STAMP and SMAK (Carol Morse mumsey05@bresnan.net).

Become a grassroots captain. Start early by encouraging students, CFYs, and newbies to get involved! There are a million resources and you can access them from the comfort of your own chair on the ASHA website as well as the MSHA facebook page. Do what you can, or at the least support people who are trying. While you’re thinking that someone else may do it, someone else may be thinking that YOU will do it.

HAVE JUST A FEW MINUTES?-log onto ASHA’s Take Action site, select an issue from the ones listed below and “take action”. Most of the work is done as ASHA has already drafted sample letters. All you need to do is sign your name.

Support Telehealth Legislation

Tell your members of Congress to cosponsor the Medicare Telehealth Parity Act of 2017 (H.R. 2550) and the CONNECT for Health Act of 2017 (S. 1016/H.R. 2556). Both pieces of legislation would make leaps and bounds by providing Medicare beneficiaries with access to services (e.g., audiology and speech-language pathology) that they may not otherwise receive.

·       Support Access to Speech-Generating Devices

Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and John Larson (D-CT) and Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) have introduced the Steve Gleason Enduring Voices Act (H.R. 2465/S. 1132). The legislation builds on the Steve Gleason Act of 2015 to permanently fix Medicare’s policy that limits access to speech-generating devices (SGDs).

·       Take Action NOW to repeal the therapy cap The House and Senate have both introduced legislation to repeal the Medicare therapy caps. Representatives Paulsen (R-MN), Kind (D-WI), Blackburn (R-TN), and Matsui (D-CA) have introduced a House bill (H.R.807) to repeal the cap. The Senate bill (S.253) was sponsored by Senators Cardin (D-MD), Collins (R-ME), Casey (D-PA) and Heller (R-NV).

INTERESTED IN DOING MORE?-Sign up for ASHA Headlines, follow ASHA Advocacy on social media, check out the grassroots advocacy section on ASHA’s website and get information on meeting with members of congress in your home district and on Capitol Hill. Volunteer as a writer/author, or become a mentor. Volunteer as a MSHA Board member. Contact governance@asha.org, grassroots@asha.org

By: Janis Hayes-Strom