Desjadon: 6th District GOP Food Fight, Dems Talk Issues
By Mike Desjadon
Instead of tackling real issues, 6th District Republicans are playing “who stole whose lunch money” internally while 6th District Democrats paint us as out of touch and win new voters. I get it, intrigue sells and Twitter fights overshadow real dialogue on issues these days, but this dynamic is why I chose to run in the first place. It’s time to address what people care about and tell voters what we stand for.
There are four Democrats pursuing this open Congressional seat and they’re already talking about real issues — guns, opioids and healthcare. We’ll have to beat one of them in November and voters in the real race don’t care about our insular primary antics. The good news: they don’t have effective plans for how to tackle these issues beyond suggesting that we’re a few regulations from security and more government will save us. The bad news: they at least have a plan we don’t yet.
The left has released their strategy: don’t argue facts; fight on emotion. Pay attention because it’s brilliant. They’ll claim the moral or emotional high ground, paint us on the other side of “common sense” and fight to win: “End gun violence now,” “Pay your fare share,” and “A better deal.” Sound familiar?
People get behind “pay your fair share” despite the fact that 20 percent of taxpayers now pay 87 percent of all taxes. “End gun violence now,” is an even more effective, if disingenuous, emotional pitch. This slogan has created an absolutist movement rather than a dialogue. Absolutism is a political winner: you have to be for it or against it and who would be against ending gun violence? The left for starters, or we’d be talking about behavioral health and inner city handgun crime; not the rights of legal gun owners. The left will shout you down of course, but it’s a fact that 60 percent of all gun deaths are suicide and it’s hard to argue that suicide is not a behavioral health problem. It’s also apparent that most school shooters were suffering from documented or obvious behavioral health issues and were aided by a system ill equipped to adequately intervene. Think they’ll let facts get in their way? I wouldn’t bet the midterms on it.
The real crisis, of which gun violence is just one part, is tragically avoidable deaths related to behavioral health. Suicides, opioid deaths and gun homicides related to mental health kill as many Americans every year as diabetes. If you add other forms of overdose related deaths (meth, cocaine etc.) and alcoholism the totals approach Alzheimer’s and stroke. That should knock you off your feet. Why are we wasting our social and political capital on “assault rifles” while poorly treated mental illness is tearing our communities apart?
I’ve built a career on the business side of healthcare, much of it in boardrooms where decisions on how to provide care are debated, and can I confidently tell you the healthcare system isn’t prepared to confront this crisis. We spend billions on diabetes and Alzheimer’s but a relative pittance on behavioral health. We’re largely silent on pharmaceutical companies spending hundreds of millions on political advocacy ($240M in 2017 while the NRA spent $5M) while opioids like hydrocodone remain the top prescribed medications in the US. We argue for expanding Medicaid while it struggles to address the complex needs of our vulnerable communities. We can fix this and here’s a start:
Invest in Behavioral Health: we’re behind and we need to catch up fast to solve provider shortages, deficits in community health and an over-reliance on pharmaceuticals.
Overhaul Medicaid: the dominant payer of behavioral health and needs to be made more efficient, cost effective and focused on proactive intervention.
Invest in Social determinants of health; factors like food security, access to caregivers, substance abuse and presence of a weapon can be factored into prediction and prevention.
Repeal Certificate of Public Need laws: These laws prevent competition in healthcare, stifle innovation and endanger community welfare.
Change scope and practice laws: We need better access to healthcare with more touch points; nurse practitioners and physician’s assistance are qualified to administer primary care.
Coordinate Health, School, and Law Enforcement: create hardwired methods of communication.
Fix rural broadband to encourage telemedicine: Police and caregivers should have access to virtual mental health consults to diagnose potential issues in real-time. Patients should be able to reach a professional at the moment of crisis.
Improve Background Checks: not everyone is of the same mental faculty to own and operate a firearm safely. We can strengthen background checks with more actionable mental health data without violating the rights of people of full faculty.
Behavioral health is a complicated issue and like most real problems deserves more dialogue than a clever twitter post. Our communities are at risk and we have important choices to make. We can choose to lead with a plan or give our elections away to Democrats disguising their tired push for more government as leadership because they have a better sales pitch. This crisis is our emotional call to arms and we need real people to solve it. While the political antics of our primary will surely rear their head at the May 19th Convention, we should be thinking about the real issues that will dominate the fight ahead of us. I am.
Mike Desjadon, 36, is a candidate for the Republican nomination for Virginia’s 6th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Managing director at the Advisory Board Company, a national healthcare research and consulting company, he graduated from Colgate University in 2003 with a degree in Political Science. Desjadon and his fiancé currently reside in Augusta County.