ASTHO Immediate Past President Jay Butler Reflects on 2018 Washington Week

March 22, 2018|4:20 p.m.| ASTHO Staff

Jay ButlerLast week, ASTHO hosted its 2018 Washington Week, convening state and territorial health officials in the nation’s capital to make the case for public health funding, advocate for additional resources to address the opioid epidemic, and meet with federal partners and leadership at HHS and the White House. ASTHO spoke with Immediate Past President Jay Butler (SHO-AK) about key takeaways following the week’s events.

Last week, more than 25 state and territorial health officials assembled in Washington, D.C. for leadership development, advocacy, and networking activities. What can you share about these events for colleagues who were unable to attend?

The workshop on leadership in government provided a fabulous opportunity to gain insight from Washington insiders on how the federal budget is developed, the structure and function of HHS, and how to best connect with elected officials. In addition, the opportunity to connect with state delegations and D.C.-based staff from the governors’ offices was particularly helpful. U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams (alumnus-IN), Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir, and Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec offered clarity on the Administration’s priorities. White House staff also provided information on the most recent proposal to address the opioid epidemic. 

What are your three main takeaways from Washington Week 2018?

The first is that the response to the opioid crisis is emerging as a bipartisan issue in the current Congress. Secondly, although the President’s Budget does not have the power of law, it is not meaningless—despite media claims that it is “dead on arrival.” Rather, it is a position statement. Finally, Washington Week is worthwhile, even for seasoned state and territorial health officials. 

Business aside, did you learn anything new during your trip to the nation’s capital?

In March, the weather can be anything—snow one minute, sunny blue skies half an hour later.

After meeting with key members of the Administration, what do you see as promising next steps?

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams will continue to develop his focus on “better health through partnerships,” with a report on the relationship between health and the economy to follow. This momentum will provide a platform on which we, as health strategists, can build partnerships with the private sector, while also making the case for the value of public health.