EWA Government and Public Affairs Director
Originally published in The Hartford Institute for Geriatric Nursing’s HIGN Connections
Last week, I hosted the Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program (GWEP) Coordinating Center’s Advisory Council for a fly-in advocacy day on Capitol Hill. In partnership with the American Geriatrics Society, host of the Coordinating Center, geriatric experts from across the country came to participate. EWA members’ National Association for Geriatrics Education (NAGE) and LeadingAge helped with training and led geriatric experts around the Hill for the day. Advocacy day participants met with nearly 30 Senate, House, and committee staff. The day turned out to be a great success.
The GWEP Advisory Council shared information with their Members of Congress on successful programs in their communities. In addition, we were able to convey the urgency of increased funding for the geriatrics workforce programs. At stake is the only federal training program aimed at educating the workforce in geriatrics. The two programs, GWEP and the Geriatrics Academic Career Awards (GACA) are currently operating with an expired authorization. By operating every year without an authorized program, it makes it that more difficult to get appropriations (actual funding) for these programs.
Our asks were simple: 1) appropriate Title VII geriatrics workforce programs at $51 million for FY20, and 2) reauthorize Title VII geriatrics workforce programs at $51 million. With the news that the Senate level-funded geriatrics workforce programs from FY19 at $40.7 million and the House passed appropriations bill included $43.7 million, we knew our request for this additional funding was an uphill battle.
At the same time, this $51 million request was not just pulled out of a hat. Several years ago, the Health Resource and Services Administration (HRSA) combined multiple programs into one geriatrics program, leading to consolidation and lost services. This $51 million will restore the current programs and create more robust geriatrics training in areas all across the country.
Specifically, we asked Members of Congress to support the Geriatrics Workforce Improvement Act (S. 299) and the Educating Medical Professionals and Optimizing Workforce Efficiency and Readiness (EMPOWER) for Health Act of 2019 (H.R. 2781). Both bills would reauthorize geriatrics programs to $51 million and include language that puts current GWEP and GACA policies into statute.
This advocacy work cannot be understated and it does not have to be done in Washington, D.C. In fact, if you are a GWEP, some of the best advocacy can come from inviting your member of Congress to your location of work for a site-visit. We have gained some of our most loyal champions on the Hill by these local site visits. If you are not a GWEP but would like to aid this initiative, call your representatives and ask them to support the Geriatrics Workforce Improvement Act (S. 299) and the Educating Medical Professionals and Optimizing Workforce Efficiency and Readiness (EMPOWER) for Health Act of 2019 (H.R. 2781).
It is easy for me to get pulled into the minutiae of appropriations numbers and authorization, as so many of my discussions on the Hill are about trying to find funding and other ways to strategically move bills. Last week, I was able to step back and listen to the wonderful work being done across the country. Not only was I recharged by the passion of those doing the work on the ground, I was able to witness staff members of our most powerful elected officials recognizing the importance of the GWEP programs as well. I hope you will be able to join the growing number of voices across the country asking their elected officials to invest in a workforce that cares for us all as we age.