Beth Keeney: January 2017 Outstanding Advocate

beth-300x300.jpgThe NACHC advocacy team is excited to announce the Outstanding Advocate for January 2017­­­—Beth Keeney, Senior Vice President of Community Health Initiatives and Chief Operating Officer for Primary Care Services at LifeSpring Health Systems in Jeffersonville, Indiana.

LifeSpring is an FQHC, a community mental health center, and a healthcare for the homeless site. In addition to her primary roles at LifeSpring, Beth also serves as co-chair of the integrated care committee, which aims to seamlessly integrate primary medical and behavioral care for the mentally ill, in an effort to improve chronic disease management, reduce mortality rates, and improve health outcomes. She has also served as Chairman of the Jeffersonville Homeless Task Force, where with other local leaders to develop a 10-year plan to end homelessness in Jeffersonville, and is currently a Commissioner on the Jeffersonville Housing Authority. Dedicated to patients and the community, Beth brings her leadership and passion to advocacy and works to drive the health center mission forward.

When then-Rep. Todd Young left the House of Representatives after winning a Senate seat in November, Beth found herself with a new Member of Congress—Rep. Trey Hollingsworth. Given all of the challenges and opportunities facing health centers and likely changes to the health care system in as a whole in the months and years ahead, Beth knew it was crucial to hit the ground running in her effort to cultivate a relationship with her new Member of Congress. “We are absolutely committed to the work of the health center program, and believe it is critical that our elected officials, especially newly elected officials, have the opportunity to see what public health really looks like and hear what challenges our patients and their families face in accessing healthcare. We knew that after Representative Hollingsworth was sworn in there would be increasing demands and requests for his time. We also knew based on discussions on the campaign trail that legislation that could impact our operations and our target population would likely be proposed. That in mind, we wanted to ask for a visit with the Congressman as quickly after the election as possible,” Beth said. 

By early December, the Congressman-elect had already visited Beth and LifeSpring. “Representative Hollingsworth spent several hours with us. He was very engaged and asked a lot of questions about our operations and the patients we served.  He met with our providers and toured our facility.  [He] has indicated to us he is committed to working to ensure the medically underserved have access to affordable healthcare, and that he believes the health center program is one avenue of addressing the shortage of affordable healthcare. There is no question the healthcare environment is, once again, rapidly changing and that health centers will need to be ready to respond to changes. We believe Representative Hollingsworth will be receptive to our questions, concerns, and feedback about proposed federal changes.”

Committed to building the relationship with his office, Beth has stepped up into the role of Key Contact for Rep. Hollingsworth and his staff. As a Key Contact, NACHC relies on Beth and the hundreds of other Key Contacts across the country to communicate the health center message with when there is a timely or targeted ask that needs support from Congress.

Inviting Members of Congress out to your health center, or meeting with them in-district while they are on recess, is one of the best ways you can demonstrate the value of health centers and tell the story of your organization and the patients and community you serve. Especially for freshman Members of Congress, like Rep. Hollingsworth, it is important to get your foot in the door early and lay the groundwork (what we like to call Health Centers 101) that will be vitally important when we ask advocates to call on their Members of Congress to ask for support for the health center program. The NACHC federal affairs staff is in the midst of 101 meetings with freshmen MOCs on Capitol Hill, but there is no substitute for them hearing (and seeing firsthand!) the local story from their constituents back home.

Beth’s work to educate Hollingsworth and his staff didn’t stop with his visit in December. Just prior to this writing, Beth met with the Congressman’s communications director to continue the conversation and further cultivate her relationship. Advocacy Pro Tip: developing a relationship with Congressional Staff is critically important – these staff often serve as the gateway to the Member of Congress personally. Thank you, Beth, for making quick work of reaching out to Rep. Hollingsworth to gain and strengthen his support towards community health centers.

To find out more about NACHC’s Key Contact Program, watch this short video.

Want to get more engaged on advocacy and learn how to build and foster relationships with your Members of Congress? Click here.

Do you know an Outstanding Advocate who deserves this recognition? Let us know! Email Elizabeth Kwasnik at ekwasnik@nachc.org

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