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Instructions: Response must be at least 300 words written in current APA format with at least two academic references cited. References must be within the last five years. Response must extend, correc/refute, or add additional nuance.

Advocating for the legislature needed to improve healthcare often involves demonstrating the need for additional state and or federal funding. When healthcare professionals pursue advocating for a particular patient population, they must first identify the needs of that group and then examine what possible solutions there are to the problem so a plan can be put in place. The formulation of a plan is crucial so a demonstration of why and how the requested funds will be used can be presented to lawmakers.

A healthcare problem I have witnessed in my career is the continuing lack of mental health and substance abuse services available for the increasing demand. Currently, Florida ranks 49th in the nation for mental health spending and 35th for substance abuse spending. A recent reduction in the state’s budget for the allocation of mental health services has caused many mental health and substance abuse organizations to cut their budgets and therefore lose beneficial programs (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration, 2021).

An advocacy action that I can take to improve healthcare through legislation is in my work as a behavioral health nurse navigator. A key function of my role in processing hospital referrals for patients needing mental health treatment is that I collect and report on patient data. Information used on rates of emergency room recidivism, the availability of inpatient crisis unit beds, and the time it takes to secure an outpatient appointment are all part of the data we use to demonstrate the needs of services and the lack of available resources. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2020 almost 94,000 fatal overdoses occurred which was a 31% increase over the year prior (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2021). My department presents the data we obtain to our local government representatives and healthcare stakeholders who can then lobby the state to secure more funding for service expansion, especially for the medication assisted-treatment programs (MAT). Studies show that patients who receive buprenorphine or methadone are more likely after 30 days to be engaged in addiction treatment and less likely to abuse opioids than those with counseling alone (American College of Emergency Physicians, n.d.). Advocating for more funding for MAT programs to expand the number of patients that can be treated would greatly promote the health and safety of those suffering from substance abuse disorders in the community.

An effective strategy to convince lawmakers to allocate more funding for programs is by providing personal stories in addition to statistical data. More than 81,000 people died of a drug overdose last year and overdoses are the leading cause of death for people under 50 (American College of Emergency Physicians, n.d.). From my work in navigation, we can collect anecdotal data as well as statistical data so that information can be presented to the state to show how when patients were successfully enrolled in the MAT program, they had fewer emergency room visits and thus reducing the costs associated with unnecessary inpatient stays.

 In Arizona when healthcare professionals identified the need for a community-based prescription medication disposal program to combat the opioid endemic they worked with the state to secure funding for the development of that program and various others including a program to provide education on Narcan for first responders (Moroney et al., 2021). This is another example of how healthcare can be improved when healthcare professionals assess the specific need in their community and work with government agencies to develop and implement strategies and programs to make a positive difference.  

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