The Legislative Process in the Land of Lincoln: Protecting our First Responders from the Dangers of Opioids
By living in Springfield, the capital of Illinois and home of President Abraham Lincoln, I have had the opportunity to work in the capitol complex for the past 20 years. Fortunately, I was in familiar surroundings when I attended the hearing before the Illinois House of Representatives Fire and Emergency Services Committee at the Capitol Building to testify on behalf of AIHA in support of House Resolution 809. This legislation—one of the first of its kind in the nation—urges all first responders, law enforcement, and public health officials to be educated about the dangers of exposure to opioids, such as fentanyl, and to take proper precautions to avoid potential exposures and overdoses.
My involvement began when Kevin Aikman, past president of the Chicago Local Section, asked if I would be interested in working with him to support this resolution, as I had on other occasions. Kevin introduced me to Mark Ames, AIHA’s director of Government Relations, and the three of us held a telephone conversation to review the legislation and discuss AIHA’s past interactions with Illinois legislators. When a hearing date was set for Resolution 809, Mark asked if I would testify at the hearing. I was excited to do so.
Mark prepared a draft of my written testimony, which I reviewed and then presented to the Fire and Emergency Services Committee on March 1, 2018. During my testimony, I described AIHA members as the guardians of workplace safety, applying science to anticipate, identify, and solve health and safety problems. I explained that the broader opioid epidemic afflicting our nation is also placing at risk the workers we all depend upon for our safety and security. These workers are often caught unprepared, confronted with hazards on a scale and intensity never before seen. It is our obligation to repay the debt we owe to them for the services they provide. Following my testimony, the House Committee voted to adopt Resolution 809, placing it on the Calendar Order of Resolutions.
After the hearing, I had an opportunity to talk with the chairperson and vice chairperson of the Fire and Emergency Service Committee and thanked them for sponsoring this resolution. Other organizations supported the Resolution—there was no opposition—and I had discussions with their representatives as well.
I really enjoyed representing our profession, explaining to others what industrial hygiene is and what we do to protect people and the environment. From this experience, I learned that our legislatures and other organizations want to know more about industrial hygienists and how we can help them. As a result of our efforts as well as others’, on March 8, 2018, House Resolution 809 was adopted by the Illinois House of Representatives.
Photo left to right: Eric Foster, Illinois Association for Behavioral Health; Debbie Broadfield, Capitol Edge Consulting (representing the Illinois Association for Behavioral Health and the American Nurses Association-Illinois); Kathleen Willis, chair, Illinois House of Representatives Fire and Emergency Services Committee; Sampa Das Ostrem; and Frances Ann Hurley, vice chair, Fire and Emergency Services Committee.