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VUSM students engage legislators at Day on the Hill

Posted by on Monday, March 26, 2018 in Science Advocacy.

On Tuesday, March 14, a group of 17 medical students attended TMA’s (Tennessee Medical Association) Day on the Hill to bring forth a student-written resolution to Tennessee legislators on expanding opioid addiction treatment access, partake in a Tennessee medical student summit, and engage with policymakers and healthcare providers.

In the early afternoon, medical students from across Tennessee congregated in a summit at the Cordell Hull Building, organized by first-year Thomas Day. At this event, students connected with other students from around the state and learned about opportunities to collaborate on legislative proposals.

The Nashville Academy of Medicine also organized student and physician meetings with state senators and legislators in the afternoon. Students and physicians visited legislative offices to discuss issues spanning minor indoor tanning to episodes of care. The Vanderbilt medical student group brought forth a resolution to expand opioid treatment for Tennessee patients via a Section 1115(a) Waiver.

A few months ago, first year medical students Sanjana Salwi and Carolyn Ahlers led the writing of a resolution to apply for a Section 1115(a) Waiver. The current IMD (Institutions for Mental Diseases) exclusion prohibits the use of federal financing for care provided to patients in mental health and substance use disorder in facilities larger than 16 beds. While this policy was initially enacted in 1965 to phase out older psychiatric wards, it is now affecting access to care for patients who are struggling with substance use disorders. Recently, the CMS recommended states to submit Section 1115(a) waivers to help address the ongoing opioid crisis. This waiver would allow states to bypass the IMD exclusion and provide inpatient opioid use disorder treatment in healthcare facilities with more than 16 beds. In the few months leading up to Day on the Hill, a group of medical students helped shape the language of the bill and prepare talking points and paper materials.

Over the afternoon, students met with 4-5 different legislators to share their ideas, and some meetings led to continued follow-up in moving the resolution forward. As of March 21st, Senator Yarbro brought forth the ideas presented at Day on the Hill to help push a bill that would support applying for Section 1115 waivers, which has now passed committee and is currently being scheduled for a Senate hearing.

Overall, the event was a unique opportunity for students to share their voices with policymakers, as well as to meet physicians and students from around Tennessee. We are looking forward to seeing the bill continue to advance.