Anchorage, Alaska – Representative Ivy Spohnholz, D-Anchorage, received the National Distinguished Advocacy Award this week, the most prestigious award presented by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), in recognition of her significant contributions to the fight against cancer.
ACS CAN, the advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, presents the annual award to select lawmakers who demonstrate outstanding leadership in cancer-related public policy advocacy. Rep. Spohnholz was honored for her significant leadership in passing telehealth legislation in Alaska.
“With cancer patients in mind, Rep. Spohnholz’s work in the passing of House Bill 265 to expand telehealth services for residents in Alaska paves the way for innovation in rural access to care,” said Lisa Lacasse, president of ACS CAN. “Thanks to her determination, cancer patients with complex cases have the opportunity to use telehealth first to determine specific diagnostic and treatment plans with their medical providers. Rep. Spohnholz is a strong and effective ally to ACS CAN’s mission in the fight against this disease.”
Passage of the telehealth legislation was a multi-year effort resulting in a near unanimous vote of 59-1 during the 2022 legislative session. To help the bill pass with such wide support, Rep. Spohnholz:
- Built a coalition of her own legislative colleagues, majority and minority together, to pass a bill modernizing telehealth rules for both medical and behavioral health.
- Played a critical role behind the scenes, helping navigate, shepherd, advise, and negotiate ACS CAN priority issues through the legislative process.
- Incorporated language making it clear that patients in Alaska can see doctors in the state by telehealth without seeing them in person first.
- Facilitated work between the state’s occupational licensing division and our coalition partners of ACS CAN, the state medical association, and state hospital association allowing patients to see out-of-state doctors by telehealth with their local physician’s referral.
“Rep. Spohnholz has a unique ability to unite her colleagues and keep the focus on solutions when things could easily get mired in technical bureaucracy or partisan politics. The result of our work together is the ability for cancer patients to get advice and care from the top medical centers in the nation,” said Emily Nenon, ACS CAN Alaska government relations director. “Alaska’s cancer patients are already benefitting from the relief of knowing that not every appointment will require a plane ticket and days of travel. Local physicians are excited to be able to better collaborate with Outside experts to serve their patients’ needs. We are extremely grateful for Rep. Spohnholz’s leadership and dedication on this critical access to care issue that will have a significant impact in our rural state.”
The award was announced on Sept. 13 as part of the annual ACS CAN Leadership Summit and Lobby Day in Washington, DC. More than 500 cancer patients, survivors and their loved ones met in-person for the first time since 2019 with their elected officials to urge them to support policies that increase funding for cancer research and prevention programs and address barriers that prevent diverse populations from enrolling in clinical trials.