Members take to Capitol Hill for Lobby Day

More than 100 ASAM members took advantage of the conference location Wednesday to lobby with members of Congress for addiction-related issues on Lobby Day.

Lobby Day is an annual effort led by the ASAM Legislative Advocacy Committee to speak to members of Congress about issues of importance to the specialty, an effort that has the strong support of ASAM President-elect Don Kurth, M.D., FASAM, who is also involved in politics, serving as the mayor of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

“There are significant issues in addiction medicine and the treatment of people with addiction that are still hampered by residual moral thinking about addiction and the absence of a true medical disease model among the majority of the lay population, and that includes legislators,” said Ken Roy, M.D., FASAM, chair of Legislative Advocacy Committee.

“Our effort seeks to help legislators understand that addiction is truly a medical illness and what the data has so far demonstrated about the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of treatment,” he said.

Lobby Day began Wednesday with a training session in the morning, which included an address by Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) and a lobbying professional who provided advice on how to speak to legislators. In the afternoon, members went to Capitol Hill in pairs or teams of four to meet with representatives from their home states and districts.

Participation in Lobby Day this year is at an all-time high with the conference taking place in Washington, D.C., but the training can also be applied in state legislatures, Dr. Roy said.

Among the legislative issues on which ASAM members have lobbied in the past is parity in insurance coverage for treatment of addiction, he said. Currently, the major issue for ASAM is health care reform.

“We are faced with this legislative session where health care reform itself is on the table,” Dr. Roy said. “We have a strong interest in advocating, for whatever evolves, that it continue to include the treatment of addiction at parity in insurance coverage with that for other health conditions.

“The fight’s not over with the passage of legislation because there is subsequent rule-making and then actual practice. We have specific requests and educational goals.”