The theme of National Health Center Week this year - Celebrating America’s Health Centers: The Key to Healthier Communities - is meant to recognize the ways in which health centers serve as the foundation of health within their community. As we kickoff this incredible week of celebration, we have designated days within the week to showcase key elements of success within the Health Center Program. Today we celebrate the thousands of Federal, State and Local Elected Officials whose support and leadership have helped make the Health Center Program a success. This blog will highlight Evan Goyke, Wisconsin State Representative, Marcus Riccelli, Washington State Representative, and Gail Diggs, Aiken City Council Member. These individuals are proud to share the ways in which they engage in public service in their roles as both health center personnel and elected officials.
We asked Marcus Riccelli to share what it’s like to work at Community Health Association of Spokane (CHAS Health) in Spokane, WA while also serving on the Washington state legislature.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your work with CHAS Health.
I was born and raised in Spokane, WA. Before being elected to the Washington State House of Representatives in 2012, I worked as U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell’s Eastern Washington Director and as Senior Policy Advisor to our then State Senate Majority Leader. I am a husband and a father of two young children. I coach youth soccer and baseball, and play soccer and hoops myself when I can. I also work part-time at CHAS Health as a Project Manager. I got involved with CHAS because I believe health care is a right. I represent one of the poorest districts in Washington, and a lot of my constituents are deeply struggling daily. As a Project Manager, I am focused on helping start our Nurse Practitioner Residency Program and expanding telehealth to further meet the health needs of our community.
How and why did you become an elected official?
My family upbringing and Jesuit education called me to explore public service as a way of giving back, to fight for social justice and for the common good. I ran for office because I want my kids, and all kids, to grow up knowing that they can do anything they set their mind to. Unfortunately, right now in Spokane and communities across our country, the life expectancy, educational attainment, likelihood of incarceration and lifetime earnings of an individual correspond directly with the zip code where they are born. Everyone deserves a fair shot to thrive regardless of where they are from, and that is what I am committed to working toward as an elected official.
How does your role as a Washington State Representative help inform the work you do at CHAS and vice versa?
Working at CHAS has given me a much better perspective of health care delivery on the ground. Our clinics are entry points for so many of our most vulnerable community members, and it has been eye-opening to try and understand how our patients navigate the health care system and get connected to services. It is also helpful to see the many barriers they face to access all the other critical services they need.
Since I began at the legislature I have served on the Healthcare Committee, and I know I am a much better committee member and much better legislator because of my work at CHAS. For CHAS, I think I help keep our team and many of the folks who are on the frontlines really informed. Our people are some of the best advocates, so understanding how policies and funding can affect those they work closely with is imperative. Health centers have taken the lead on advocacy for those we serve, so I think it is beneficial for CHAS that I am a constant voice for everyone in our organization in the legislature and to be informed and engaged in our democracy.
What program or service are you most proud of at CHAS?
I am most proud of our outreach team that goes and meets our homeless population on their terms. They have built relationships and trust with our most vulnerable, a critical component to at least opening the door to help connect them with services. Sometimes that begins with a pair of clean socks, a t-shirt, snack, or a sincere “How are you doing?”, hug, or handshake. I am in awe of the respect and care that they give everyone and how they work with individuals to find opportunities to get little wins in their lives that could end up being transformative.
Why are you an advocate for community health centers?
No person will thrive without access to quality, affordable health care. Everywhere I turn our community health centers are working hard to improve health care delivery and supporting measures that will provide much greater access and reduce the cost of care for many people.
Without question, the support of America’s elected officials – be it in Congress, State Capitols, Counties, Cities or otherwise – has enabled the continued resources and success of the Health Center Program. As we celebrate America’s Health Centers: The Key to Healthier Communities, today we recognize the nations elected officials and many Health Center Champions for their leadership and support to grown and sustain the Health Center Program. We applaud and appreciate Marcus for his commitment to Health Center Advocacy and for being a voice in the Washington legislature for CHAS and the patients they serve.