Submitted by Mike Sokoloski, Grassroots Manager (GAO)
You’ve attended the annual legislative Ambassador training. You’ve studied the talking points. You know the fact sheet. To make the transition from “Hello” to “Equalized Access” it would help to fill the script with soft transitional conversation that does not take too much time from your purpose. Here are some ways to gain confidence headed into the meat-and-bones of your legislative interactions:
Google the legislator’s name and local newspaper name for search results containing stories of his or her involvement in the community.
Ask me for a “footprint” of the BAYADA clients and staff residing in the legislator’s district.
Go to the legislator’s webpage and scroll for recent activity related to home care or health care.
Ask me to research any previous meetings that Ambassadors or GAO staff has had with a tenured legislator.
At a week forward, week in review, or staff meeting in your office, ask your colleagues if they have any knowledge or had any interactions with the legislator you are visiting. You’d be surprised!
Remember: You’re the expert in the room during your time with a legislator. Your State Director has provided you with ample resources and I encourage you to reach out to me with any questions or concerns. I will be thrilled to help in any way possible.
Submitted by Mike Sokoloski, Grassroots Manager (GAO
Our Ambassador program focuses on supporting our Ambassadors as they develop relationships with local legislators. We do this through Ambassador training, one-on-one guidance from GAO State Directors and I and through other tools and resources.
One new tool we are excited to bring Ambassadors is our private Facebook group.
This Facebook group is a great opportunity for our Ambassadors to support their peers, recognize success, and bounce ideas off of one another. It will give them the opportunity to interact “live” with GAO staff, other Ambassadors, office staff, and field staff, answer questions, start discussions to empower colleagues to accomplishing effective advocacy interactions, and celebrate one another’s successes. Check out the Hearts for Homecare private Facebook site and get involved: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1329442400470650/?ref=br_rs
Submitted by Candice Proctor, Client Services Manager and GAO Ambassador (MBP)
There is nothing more meaningful than caring for our clients daily and advocating for them and their families.
On Thursday, April 13, our Mechanicsburg, PA Pediatrics (MBP) office had the pleasure of hosting a visit from Pennsylvania Republican Representative Greg Rothman. We gave him a tour of our office, and then orchestrated a home visit with one of our families.
This was an immensely meaningful visit for all involved. When our legislators see firsthand the importance and impact of home care, they immediately understand why it’s meaningful and necessary. We could not be more grateful to have such a fantastic advocate in our nation’s capital.
It’s easy to see how happy Rep. Rothman’s visit made everyone. We’ll never stop working to make magic happen, because we know that, together, we can make a difference for our families and communities.
Submitted by Rick Hynick, Director of Family and Client Advocacy GAO)
Efforts are under way to communicate with adult offices that work with assistive care clients through the OLTL program. By bringing caregiving experiences together with voices of our clients and families, BAYADA’s Government Affairs Office has the ability to team up with service offices to fight for better reimbursement, which in turn can help with staff recruitment and retention.
Champions Among Us, a BAYADA quarterly newsletter dedicated to pediatric and adult client family advocacy, will soon become part of Care Connections, and will provide our clients with quarterly updates.
Don’t forget to join Hearts For Home Care at www.heartsforhomecare.com and help a client or family to join as well to become part of a growing group of people who are ready to advocate for a better tomorrow for home health care. An advocacy Facebook page will soon be underway and will be dedicated to advocacy efforts and clients’, families’ and our employees’ activities. Looking forward to seeing everyone at Awards Weekend!
Submitted by Michael Sokoloski, Manager, Grassroots Advocacy (GAO)
On March 23, at the North Carolina Learning Center, Hearts for Home Care ambassadors gathered for their annual advocacy training, with the focus on story-telling. While it is extremely important for lawmakers to understand the policies behind the laws, one must capture their interest first. A client story is the perfect way. We invited a former BAYADA family advocate, Lynn Wright from Shelby, to share her story. She described what she went through with both of her parents living with Alzheimer’s and how she advocated for them. Paraphrasing Lynn’s words on the value of home health care…I can tell you how much it cost, but that is not value. I measure value in smiles, independence, safety and security, and peace of mind for knowing everything will be ok. That is why I advocate. Her words were powerful, striking a chord in many.
During an exercise, our new ambassadors put together a six-word story of their own to convey why they advocate (see below). “I’m always impressed by the commitment of our ambassadors,” said Lee Dobson, Area Director Government Affairs. “They speak from the heart…and that is what a legislator will remember.” In addition to story-telling, attendees learned how to garner support on our rate increase and the grueling process by which a bill will become a law.
Below are some of the six-word stories from our ambassadors on why they advocate:
Submitted by Shannon Gahs, Associate Director, DE Government Affairs (GAO)
The Delaware General Assembly has recessed until April 25, making now the perfect time to reach out to your legislators to schedule a visit with one of our clients or a discussion in your office. Support for our rate floor bill is growing. This bill would strengthen home health care across the state, ensuring that reimbursement rates from Medicaid-contracted organizations would be no lower than Medicaid pays directly. This would enable all home health care providers to make informed business decisions, with the assurance that private rates would never fall below that “floor.” We already have bipartisan support in the House. We’re meeting with additional representatives and moving to build support with senators on both sides of the aisle as well.
Submitted by Lee Dobson, Area Director, NC Government Affairs (GAO)
Special thanks to the 266 BAYADA office staff who made their voices heard. We asked you to write your congressional representatives urging them to support community and home-based care and oppose any changes that would hurt seniors and Medicaid. Utilizing our Hearts for Home Care Advocacy Center, BAYADA staff from across the country sent 813 letters to Congress. Our efforts helped stop the vote, whereby protecting seniors and Medicaid from cuts.
I am thrilled to announce that Mike Sokoloski transitioned from community liaison to join BAYADA’s Government Affairs Office (GAO) team on Monday, March 13. He is the first manager of our grassroots advocacy efforts.
In this new role, Mike is responsible for overseeing and leading the work of BAYADA’s Hearts for Homecare, a companywide grassroots advocacy program that was created to support and help achieve our long-term vision. He will not only lead the Hearts for Home Care Ambassador Program in five states—Delaware, North Carolina, New Jersey, Maryland, and Pennsylvania—but will also create an outreach program to engage our field employees in advocacy. They are on the front lines of care delivery and, as many of our priorities directly impact them, this new program will give our field employees a voice to share their powerful stories. While Mike will report directly to me, he will support the other GAO state directors in their grassroots initiatives.
Prior to his transition, Mike was a community liaison for six years for two of BAYADA’s adult home care offices in northeastern PA, where he successfully managed relationships with referral sources in the community. Mike was appointed to the PA Long-Term Care Council in October of 2016 by Governor Tom Wolf as the only home care representative. He is an appointed member of the Lackawanna County Area Agency on Aging Advisory Board, serving since 2013. He is also vice-president of the Northeast PA Aging Network Alliance, promoting awareness of services and issues affecting older adults in northeastern PA.
As community liaison, Mike was no stranger to government affairs. For his efforts, he was named BAYADA’s Ambassador of the Year 2014 and 2015, and PA Ambassador of the Year 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016. His past success makes him an excellent choice to boost our grassroots advocacy efforts.
Mike’s immediate areas of focus include enhancing the Ambassador Program through mentorship and support of our active Ambassadors, and developing an outreach platform—piloting it in Pennsylvania—to engage our field employees, who are an untapped voice for advocacy.
Submitted by Louise Lindenmeier, Director, NJ Government Affairs (GAO)
Advocacy with lawmakers is so important for our clients and families. On March 22, Ambassador of the Year, Hudson County (HUD) Client Service Manager Ida Rodriquez, Perth Amboy (PER) Client Service Manager Julia Nelson, and Client Advocacy Manager Tara Montague accompanied me in Trenton where we met Assemblyman Robert Karabinchak and Senior Advisor to the Speaker Wayne Zitt. We discussed home health care and the need for higher reimbursement in order to pay higher wages for home health aides. As a result of the meeting, Assemblyman Karabinchak will co-sponsor A320 which sets a floor in managed care at the state’s fee for service rate. Senior Advisor Zitt will encourage the bill to be voted upon by the General Assembly. Both Ambassadors enjoyed the day in Trenton as they met many other legislators throughout the statehouse.
Submitted by Dave Totaro, Chief Government Affairs Officer (GAO)
Delaware Pediatric North (DPN) Director Ali Knott last week was named the 2016 Government Affairs Office (GAO) Hearts for Home Care National Ambassador of the Year!
GAO had the distinct honor of recognizing Ali and four other passionate Ambassadors from our largest-footprint states—Delaware/Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania—during our annual Hearts for Home Care Ambassador of the Year awards celebration.
Over the last year, these Ambassadors of the Year connected with, and actively shared, BAYADA’s mission with legislators on behalf of our clients and caregivers.
Ali received the National award after being named the Delaware/Maryland Ambassador of the Year. Since becoming an Ambassador, she has been a consistent supporter and advocate in Delaware public life. In the fall, she and her son, Christopher, met with Senator (now Lt. Governor) Bethany Hall-Long and Senator Nicole Poore where they both made a strong impression on both legislators.
New Jersey Ambassador of the Year Ida Rodriguez, client services manager of Hudson County (HUD) assistive care state programs office, developed and strengthened a relationship with Assemblywoman Angelica Jimenez, which included a home visit with a HUD client. As a result, Assemblywoman Jimenez signed on as a co-sponsor to a vital piece of legislation that BAYADA supports – A320.
Melissa Zuzolo, director of Conover (CON) assistive care state programs and North Carolina Ambassador of the Year coordinated a home visit, served on the board of the BAYADA NC political action committee and represented BAYADA on the Chamber of Commerce Government Affairs Committee.
Pennsylvania Ambassador of the Year Mike Sokoloski was named state Ambassador for the final time. During 2016 he served as community liaison in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (WBS) assistive care state programs office. Since then, Mike has transitioned his passion for advocacy into a new position within GAO as the new Grassroots Manager. While serving as an Ambassador in 2016, Mike served as a board member of the BAYADA PA political action committee, organized four legislative round tables, and was appointed by Governor Tom Wolf as the sole home care representative to the Governor’s Long-Term Care Council.
Trisha Lasher, a nurse in the Berks County Visits (BRK) office was named National Rookie Ambassador of the Year. Trisha has the distinction of being our first field employee to serve as an Ambassador. She built a relationship with Representative Jim Cox that was instrumental in helping a client who had been hitting roadblocks for five years to finally get a chair glide installed in her home.
Honorees traveled to Washington, DC to celebrate their achievements. They enjoyed a private festive reception before heading to dinner and the awards presentation at Charlie Palmer Steak. Senator Tom Carper joined the group to address some of the major issues affecting health care at the federal level, and to congratulate our Ambassador of the Year awardees. Before heading home, Ambassadors and their guests also spent time touring the city with stops including the White House, Jefferson Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, and the US Capitol.
Thank you to Ali, Ida, Melissa, Mike and Trisha, the GAO team, and to all of our 192 Hearts for Home Care Ambassadors for being the unified voice of our clients who can’t always speak up for themselves. It is with your support, and the support of our division directors and directors, that we will continue to make strides toward achieving our BAYADA vision of helping millions of people experience a better quality of life in the comfort of their own homes. After all, as our Hearts for Home Care Ambassadors of the Year reminded us time and time again, advocacy is The BAYADA Way.