In the News

AARC Members Travel to D.C. to Lobby for Clean Air

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September 29, 2011

A few months ago, two AARC members went to bat for clean air when they testified before a Senate hearing on the effect of air quality on children’s health.

Last week, members from Michigan and Maine kept up the good work by traveling to the nation’s capitol with their state American Lung Association (ALA) chapters to lobby their members of Congress against the TRAIN Act, legislation aimed at blocking the Environmental Protection Agency from enforcing certain clean air standards.


Members of the Michigan Society go to Washington to work for Clean Air.

Taking the initiative

Teena Culhane, BHK, RRT, and Jeremy Bainbridge, BS, RRT, went with the Michigan group after Culhane took the initiative to contact the ALA advocacy specialist in her state. “I am the Legislative Committee co-chair and AARC PACT member for our state society, and wanted to see what our organization could do to assist regarding the Clean Air Act,” she says.

Bainbridge agreed to join her, and the two got the chance to visit with legislative assistants in the offices of Sens. Carl Levin and Debbie Stabenow, along with those from the offices of Reps. John Dingell, Gary Peters, Justin Amash, and Sander Levin.

They used their background as respiratory therapists to drive home key points. Says Culhane, “Both Jeremy and I shared our stories of treating patients with lung disease and the impact the ozone action days have on their health and quality of life.”

With the exception of Rep. Amash’s office, she says they received good support from the legislative offices. “Alice Yates, the legislative assistant for Sen. Levin's office, was almost brought to tears during our meeting as a result of our dedication and compassion for our patients and for taking the time to make the trip,” says Culhane. “She was re-inspired by our meeting.”

The patient experience

Rhonda Vosmus, RRT-NPS, AE-C, is an asthma education specialist at Maine Medical Center in Portland and with the AH! Asthma Health Program and has been active with the ALA of Maine for a number of years now. She helped to identify a child with asthma who, along with his family, could accompany the Maine delegation to the lobby day.

Vosmus says having the child and family along to tell their story of living with asthma made a big impact on the legislators and legislative staff they visited with in the offices of Reps. Chellie Pingree and Mike Michaud and Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe.

“When sharing the cost of insurance for our one family—$18,200 per year with premiums and deductibles before their coverage kicks in—the eyes of those in Congress opened wide,” she says. Vosmus and her colleagues followed up with information on the monthly cost of medications for a patient with persistent asthma, plus the costs associated with ED visits and hospitalizations and the impact asthma has on jobs.

They also noted that their patient, who has well controlled asthma and the best medical care in the area, can still tell you when his community is having a high ozone day. The only thing that will help the child now, emphasized the group, is a “politician to clean the air he breathes and to stop the deregulations.”

The battle continues

The TRAIN Act unfortunately passed in the House of Representatives the day after Culhane, Bainbridge, and Vosmus made their visits, but these RTs are hopeful that the impact they were able to make on their members of Congress will keep the Act from moving forward in the Senate. They plan to keep up the fight for clean air, and encourage their fellow AARC members to join them in the battle.