Affiliates’ advocacy teams prepare to convene for meeting of the minds

July 6, 2023
The state advocacy-focused meetings, hosted by the AOA State Government Relations Committee, return in 2023 with three regionally based forums August through October.
SGRC Meeting with logo

Emerging advocacy challenges notwithstanding, optometry’s advocates look to press their statehouse momentum with a new series of regional advocacy meetings intended to capitalize on lessons learned.

Later this summer, the AOA State Government Relations Committee (SGRC) will once again launch three regional advocacy meetings across the United States to convene affiliates’ grassroots advocates, leadership and volunteers for best-practices discussions and a workshop-style approach to work on honing states’ advocacy strategies. Building on the overwhelming success of last year’s inaugural meetings, this year’s SGRC meetings promote a collaborative environment with seasoned statehouse veterans to put affiliates’ advocacy strategies first.

Find a regional advocacy meeting for your team and register soon:

“We are really looking to build on the foundation we laid last year in preparing states for their scope battles,” says Johndra McNeely, O.D., AOA SGRC chair. “We really wanted to keep this meeting fresh and interesting. I encourage my advocacy colleagues to come and bring their own scope experiences and questions, so we can learn from one another, take that vital knowledge back with us and implement it in our own states.”

The SGRC regional advocacy meetings 2.0 will offer a deeper dive into specific tactics and approaches successfully employed by advocates, as well as address new issues, including the emergence of physician “title” bills and other offensive plays utilized by opponents to derail optometry’s advancements in recent sessions.

Additionally, Dr. McNeely highlighted new session topics and formats that will add a different element than last year. Whereas panel discussions facilitated by AOA SGRC members and staff, as well as advocacy experts, legislators and other guest speakers, remain a staple feature of these meetings, attendees also will be given opportunities for hands-on, working group-style sessions to collaborate with their advocacy teams on strategy. Session topics will include:

  • Unique role-playing exercises on executing an advocacy campaign.
  • How to anticipate and effectively counter opposition arguments.
  • Foundational steps for expanding your grassroots structure and program.

The regional focus of these meetings provides an opportunity, not only from a logistical standpoint for optometry’s advocates, but also as neighboring states often share similar advocacy issues and opposition. The result is a meeting focused on hyper-local issues and enhanced collaboration, something absolutely “critical” when it comes to planning for the profession’s legislative challenges, noted Wayne Zahka, O.D., Massachusetts Society of Optometrists executive director, in referencing the 2022 meetings.

“Finding out what has or hasn’t worked from neighboring states’ experiences helps to shape the implementation of a successful approach, and we in Massachusetts look forward to this opportunity to partner for our profession’s growth,” Dr. Zahka said.

The AOA SGRC regional advocacy meetings are supported by Johnson & Johnson Vision, Lumenis, Health Care Alliance for Patient Safety and Sight Sciences.

States’ advocacy momentum, challenges

Optometry’s advocates are determined to bolster communities’ access to the full-scope, primary eye health and vision care services that doctors of optometry are educated and capable of providing—and the AOA stands ready to help.

Launched in 2018, the AOA Future Practice Initiative is an operational partnership alongside affiliates that helps leverage advocacy strengths and challenges historic impediments to optometric care. That close collaboration continues to produce significant legislative wins for optometry, including a string of notable scope advancements and—most recently—vision plan restraints.

Earlier in June, doctors in Texas and Nevada both secured new laws to fight back against the anticompetitive practices oft employed by vision plans. And before that, Florida doctors successfully averted a physician titling effort in the eleventh hour with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ veto. The bill was one of several appearing in states nationwide that require practitioners to specifically identify themselves by licensure and discontinue the use of “physician” or otherwise face reprisal. This, even though doctors of optometry have long been recognized as physicians under Medicare and Federal Employees Workers Compensation.

As opponents work to stymy optometry’s momentum nationwide, the AOA and affiliates continue to advocate for the care that doctors of optometry provide. Learn more about the state advocacy resources available from the AOA.

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