Making the case for health centers with state and local policymakers is crucial and can influence both state and federal policy conversations. Health centers across the country, in partnership with their state primary care association, should explore new opportunities and best practices for effectively sharing the health center story with state and local policymakers. In this edition of Advocacy in the States, we’ll hear about a strategy being used by health centers in Louisiana.
Louisiana Community Health Caucus
A caucus is a conference of members designed to unite legislators who come from varying political backgrounds that share the same passion and interest in a given policy matter. In caucuses, members are able to leverage support and better represent a policy issue throughout the state government. As Louisiana health centers provide essential primary and preventative care to more than 344,000 Louisiana residents, the health centers, through the Louisiana Primary Care Association (LPCA), worked with state legislators to form the Louisiana Health Caucus. Through the Caucus, members of the state legislature have increased awareness of health centers and demonstrated their support for them on the state-level.
History of the Caucus
In 2014, LPCA worked with two legislators--Senator Rick Ward, III and Representative Walt Leger, III--to establish the Community Health Caucus by introducing Senate Concurrent Resolution 73. SCR No. 73 praised the achievements of health centers in Louisiana, such as providing Louisianans with high-quality, cost effective care and generating substantial employment opportunities. Since its formation, the Community Health Caucus has been widely supported by both Democrat and Republican state legislators. There are currently 107 members in the Caucus.
Caucus Structure and Activities
The Community Health Caucus is chaired by both a member from the State House and a member from the State Senate. Every member is required to have at least one health center in his or her district. The Caucus does not receive any state funding nor does it require any official staff members. In addition to meeting and deliberating about health center policy and advocacy, members of the Community Health Caucus also attend numerous legislative and advocacy events, including the health centers’ annual legislative day. Furthermore, LPCA keeps the Caucus members up to date on health center priorities and provides them with information and data annually on the impact health centers have in the state.
Benefits and Successes of Louisiana’s Community Health Caucus
Since 2014 when the Community Health Caucus was founded, LPCA and Louisiana’s health centers have found several benefits, including:
- Supports Bipartisanship: Health centers have a strong bipartisan history that the Caucus builds upon. Both Democrats and Republicans from Louisiana House and Senate have joined the Caucus and are committed to supporting and advocating for the mission of health centers.
- Increases State Level Action: Health Centers now have a noteworthy presence within the Louisiana Capitol, with participating legislators consistently advocating for health centers and their patients through the Caucus. The biggest accomplishment that was seen occurred in 2015 when the Caucus was instrumental in advocating for state funding allocations. Additionally, the Caucus has expressed its support and appreciation for the federal 330 grant funds that benefit health centers in the state.
- Liaison with Other Policymakers: The Community Health Caucus members have built relationships with other key policymakers throughout Louisiana that they have been able to leverage to support health centers and their patients. For example, the Caucus often serves as an important liaison between the governor, state agencies, and with other legislators.
Louisiana is currently the only state legislature that has established a health center caucus. As health centers look for more opportunities to engage in advocacy at the state-level, establishing a health center caucus in partnership with their state primary care association and state legislators may be a great opportunity.
Originally written by Abigail Painchaud, NACHC Intern