Each month, the Cancer Policy Institute profiles advocates who have been engaged in advocacy in their home state, their community, with elected officials, and more. Read on to learn more about our featured advocate for January, 2019, and her incredible advocacy resume. If you are interested in learning more about policy, advocacy, and ways to get involved, sign up to be a part of the Grassroots Network!
Becky Franks, Bozeman, Montana
How did you get connected with the Cancer Support Community?
I became the Executive Director of CSC Montana in 2006 following my mother’s diagnosis of breast cancer.
Did you have experience with advocacy in any capacity before joining CSC? (e.g. legislator meetings, hosting educational events, writing letters or calling, writing pieces for media outlets, posting on your personal Facebook, sharing information with your community, etc.)
I have been active in advocacy for the past 20 years or so. I started with writing a tobacco policy for a county in Minnesota where I worked for Public Health. I sat at my desk and wrote a policy to deter youth from using tobacco, passed it before our County Commissioners, and from there I was hooked! I was so impressed by the ability for some “shmo” like me to make mass change in our community that would improve the quality of life of its residents. Since then, I have worked with City and County Commissions, written letters of support in the paper, held educational forums, am now the Chair of the Board of Health where we passed a policy to include vaping in the Clean Indoor Air Act, and attend numerous health legislative events.
In what ways have you been involved with advocacy with CSC?
As a representative of Cancer Support Community Montana, I have partnered with people in Montana to pass a Clinical Trials Law and Air Flight Compensation through the Montana government, and am currently working on a Genetic Counselor Bill for our current legislative session. We have a group of teens in a program called “Aspen Roots” and have stewarded them to participate in advocacy at the State Capital every legislative cycle, and now added students from Montana State University. We go alongside ACS CAN for training and teach them to testify before committee and lobby their legislators, as well as meet the Governor. It is truly fabulous and we are heading up again on January 24th to testify for a bill to make Indoor Tanning illegal for youth.
I have been to DC for Hill Days over the past decade, and discussed issues of importance with Senator Tester and staff people of Senator Daines and Representative Gianforte. This includes issues specific to access to medical care, educating them on the importance of psychosocial care, the Johnson Amendment, and improvements to Indian Health Care.
Also, as a Health Care Advocate, we have worked through our Professional Advisory Board to improve the complete system of care in our community. In addition, I have been a system advocate as an active leader in the Montana Cancer Coalition.
Is there one issue you are particularly passionate about?
I am most passionate about providing a voice for people marginalized by the health care system, as well as promoting prevention and access to medical care. For example, recently a local man had to be air-flighted to Salt Lake City and there was a delay because they were afraid that their insurance would not cover the cost. Once I learned of this, I was able to contact my supportive community members, and with this team behind me, told the family, “just go – if you get a bill, give it to me and provide me with permission to advocate on your behalf. I have a team that will fight for you”. People need the health care system to work for them, and I will do whatever I can to make that possible.
What is one tip or piece of advice you’d like to share with others who are interested in becoming an advocate?
“If not you, then who? If not now, then when?” We have a responsibility to advocate on behalf of our participants. I can provide all the support in the world to help relieve anxiety and stress for people affected by cancer, but when a mother of a child with cancer comes home from Denver Children’s Hospital and finds a bill for $110,000 for the airflight that she is now responsible for, there is no support in the world that can help until that bill goes away. We must act, we must step up – people in our community trust CSCMT because they know we have their back. If they can go through pain and suffering in their treatment, then I can get up every day with the participants as my True North and do what it takes to improve their quality of life, and advocacy is one avenue.
Tell us something fun about yourself—any hobbies, interests, or fun facts?
I can’t eat messy food – totally freaks me out!!