Your Voice Matters

By Steven Reames, Executive Director, Ada County Medical Society

Last month, Ada County Medical Society released a statement supporting Central District Health’s leadership in its handling of the Coronavirus. We affirmed diverse perspectives, respectful dialogue, and peaceful protests, but opposed the intimidating tactics on display that silence or disrupt civil processes. As you may recall, protesters outside the CDH offices and homes of some of its board members Dr. Ted Epperly and Ada County Commissioner Diana Lachiondo interrupted their board meeting. They were considering a public health order which would have required face coverings throughout the district; when the board reconvened the following week, it failed to pass.

Following the November defeat of Commissioner Lachiondo, her successor Ryan Davidson made it publicly clear his agenda would be to place “liberty-loving” people on the CDH board, aiming to undo its policies of the last year. This week, on a 2-0 vote, the new Board of Commissioners appointed former state representative Raul Labrador, with Commissioner Kendra Kenyon abstaining. The Idaho Statesman reported yesterday that an Open Meetings law violation has been alleged against the other two commissioners who voted for Labrador, with the accusation that his appointment was improperly teed up by the two in December outside of a public hearing.

Because of this, the Ada County Commissioners agenda for this coming Tuesday has been modified to include a request by Kenyon to reconsider Labrador’s appointment. Just this afternoon, it was announced she is nominating Sawtooth Epidemiology and Infectious Diseases’ Sky Blue, MD. Dr. Blue is eminently more qualified to speak into public health issues than Labrador, who declared in a Lewiston town hall in 2017 “nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care.”

Eventually, this virus will be brought under control and our local district health board will resume its more routine policy setting around the community and environmental health, preventive health, communicable disease control, public health preparedness, and women, infants, and children programming. Both now and at that time, I believe we need somebody who cares about public health decisions outside of the current politics and uses evidenced-based research to inform their opinions.

Doctors Protesting It may unsettle some ACMS members that we are speaking out more vocally on local issues. It is a fair description to say that in recent decades, we have been reluctant to step into controversial and political issues and preferred to remain a “centrist, big round table” in the medical community. This is especially true because we do not have a process for determining the will of the membership, as does the Idaho Medical Association with its House of Delegates.

However, last summer, our membership voted to adopt a new purpose statement in our by-laws, reading in part, “The purposes of this Society are to advance the well-being of its members through the promotion of health, education, community, and civic engagement.” While civic engagement has long been an activity of ACMS, it has never been called out as one of its stated purposes. Whether you sit right, left, or moderate, the important thing to me is that our membership is engaged rather than being silent on health matters that they can influence.

Without telling you what position to take, I would urge you to consider writing the entire Board of Commissioners by Monday night, expressing your opinion about what qualities a strong candidate should have to sit on the CDH board. You might also communicate how you felt the Central District Health performed under last year’s leadership and what you want to see more or less of. 

We live in extraordinary times when political violence and division have gripped our nation. It is easy to feel discouraged about affecting any change on the national scene. But speaking up about local issues that you can affect is a powerful exercise of your locus of control and can mitigate some of the feelings of helplessness. Health care professionals are leaders and I hope you will fill their inbox with letters of support for thoughtful, informed leadership going forward. 

Ada County Board of Commissioners: [email protected]

Tips when writing the Commissioners

  • Be respectful and professional.
  • State your purpose in the first paragraph for easy scanning.
  • In a sentence, tell them who you are and where you work.
  • It is more generally helpful to say who and what you support and why rather than saying who or what you are against.
  • If you have personal examples of how the Coronavirus has affected you, your patients, or your workplace, please share them.
  • Summarize your subject line for ease of sorting emails.
  • Be sure to include your home address. We need constituents especially from the Western end of Ada County to make their voice heard 
  • If you handwrite your letter, be sure it is legible. :)
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