A “Friday Nighter” with Missouri State Representative Deborah Lavender
By Emily Davis, MD/MPH Student at Washington University
“What is the one thing you want to get done this year?”
That is the question Missouri State Representative Deb Lavender (D) posed to a group of students, faculty, and members of the community at a recent Friday Nighter hosted by the Washington University Center for Health Economics and Policy.
What followed was a wide ranging policy conversation that covered topics from gun laws to campaign finance. With representatives from a variety of Washington University’s graduate programs – including medicine, occupational and physical therapy, social work, public health, business, and engineering – a diverse set of perspectives and ideas were brought to bear on some of the biggest challenges facing Missouri.
On the subject of the opioid epidemic for example, proposed policy solutions from the audience included increasing the number of patients to which a doctor could prescribe buprenorphine, expanding Medicaid coverage to include physical therapy treatment for chronic pain, and finding treatment oriented solutions for addicts in the criminal justice system rather than relying on incarceration.
Friday Nighter guests also had the opportunity to hear a firsthand account of how a Democrat such as Representative Lavender can influence policy in the context of the Missouri legislature with an overwhelming Republican majority. Often, she is the sole voice of dissent in the room, standing up for and creating awareness of different opinions or different methods of addressing social, health, and economic issues facing Missouri. However, when it comes to having an impact on the legislative agenda, she focuses on identifying one concrete and achievable goal and then building bipartisan support to shepherd it through both houses of the Missouri legislature. Students who hope to influence policy at any level, whether within their own institution or on a national or international stage, gained valuable insight into the process and how to work within the political system.
This year, Representative Lavender is working to support legislation to reduce incarceration. She believes Representative Hannegan’s House Bill 352 will help many women and she will be supporting it. She is passionate about helping women who have been imprisoned for defending themselves from domestic violence gain parole hearings.
Friday Nighters are monthly, informal conversations with local government leaders and policy makers. The events are free of charge and open to students, faculty and staff of Washington University interested in public health, health economics and policy.
The next Friday Nighter with Missouri Senator Jill Schupp will be held at 4:30PM on February 22nd in the Goldberg Formal Lounge on the Danforth Campus.