One of the unexpected bonuses of the NACHC P & I is that is that it gives health center advocates a bit of a strategy reset as they gather and connect, share greetings over the chat and reflect beyond the struggles of day. The second day of P&I focused on prepping advocates in a Policy and Advocacy Prep Session headlined by former U.S. Representatives Joe Kennedy and Henry Bonilla (now with the Normandy Group, LLC.) We also spent the day honoring the recipients with the 2022 NACHC Grassroots Advocacy Awards.
Certainly, President Biden’s remarks to kick off the conference on the first day reinforced collective sense of mission among health center advocates. Watch President Biden’s full remarks.
The President’s message yesterday was followed by Xavier Becerra, Secretary of Health And Human Services, who announced $55 million funding to increase access to virtual care at health centers. “From Seattle to Atlanta and everywhere in between, I’ve seen firsthand the critical role that our health centers play in serving communities,” said Becerra [full transcript] . “I’ve met with doctors, nurses, and staff, and I’ve listened to their stories. I’ve heard about the moments of both hardship and hope. And I’ve seen their resolve and determination to save lives in the face of some of the biggest challenges our nation has ever faced.”
Michael Steele, former Maryland Lt. Governor and former Chair of the Republican National Committee (RNC), also walked audience members through an eloquent broad brush of the polarized political landscape and what is at stake for democracy. He urged attendees to help “revive the ideals of our nation” and inspired advocates to support the true ideals of freedom where leaders “allow their better selves to flourish. And create the kinds of communities that everyone wants to live in.”
The General Session also featured a dynamic panel discussion moderated by NACHC interim CEO Rachel Gonzales-Hanson. The panelists included Derrick Johnson, President & CEO, NAACP; Jeff Caballero, Executive Director, Association of Asian Pacific Community Health Organizations; Eric Rodriguez, Senior VP for Policy and Advocacy, UnidosUS; and Valerie Nurr’araaluk Davidson, President/CEO, Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium.
In a wide-ranging conversation, panelists discussed how the foundation of the fight for affordable, community-centered healthcare is grounded in the Civil Rights struggle, which included AANHPI and Latino people. Panelists also shared insights to motivate us as we advocate on behalf of health centers:
“Regional problems can be overcome by national strategies,” said NAACP’s Johnson, noting how Southern resistence to healthcare for African American residents, to HeadStart for children, to Medicaid, has often been overcome by national strategy.
“When there are strong headwinds, then you’re tacking against the wind. It feels like you’re not moving, but you are. If you let go, you start moving backwards,” said UndiosUS’s Rodriguez, reflecting on the 30 years that advocates for humane immigration reform have been working toward that goal.
And Davidson from Alaska urged attendees to heed the words of her grandmother, “When you lead with love, you will never stand alone.”
The final day of P&I will feature educational sessions and much-anticipated federal updates. We will be joined by Carole Johnson, Administrator, Health Care, Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA); James Macrae, MA, MPP, Associate Administrator, Bureau of Primary Health Care, HRSA and Luis Padilla, MD, FAAFP, Associate Administrator for Health Workforce, Director, National Health Service Corps, HRSA.