KIRKSVILLE, Mo. — Emmy McClelland is no stranger to politics. She isn’t now and she wasn’t when she first landed her job at St. Louis Children’s Hospital more than 10 years ago.
Earlier on in her career, a friend told McClelland that if she wanted to get help for her son who is Autistic, she should get involved politically — and she did.
“I basically went from working as a state representative for 10 years, then I went to the governor’s office for two years to work on education policy an then this job opened up as a lobbyist and it was a perfect fit for me,” she said. “I have legislative experience, executive experience and a very personal connection to what I do.”
Her son, she said, was diagnosed at Children’s. That experience has become invaluable during her time at the hospital when it comes to advocating for their pertinent issues.
“I know what a lot of these parents are going through,” she said. “When my child was started to be old enough to go to school, there were no services for children with autism. I’ve seen the progression we’ve done and what the state and legislature has provided for children with autism in the last five years.”
McClelland said she has a very good grasp of how hard the parents are working to get help through the government to improve their child’s disability. That understanding, when it comes to what she does, has been a motivator during the past decade or so.
Lobbying was never a goal necessarily for her, and neither was politics. McClelland entered the workforce after her children were in high school — a bit later than most, she admitted — and worked for the state representative who became her predecessor when she decided to run for office as a Republican in part of St. Louis County that she said most resembles Rep. Jeanne Kirkton’s district now, geographically.
Moving on to work for two years with Democratic Gov. Bob Holden was also never a goal per say of hers, but it ended up being an opportunity she said she gained “vast experience through.”
This past year, like years before that and years to come, Medicaid expansion was an issue the Children’s Hospital fought for in the legislature, but to no avail.
“We’ll be back doing Medicaid reform and trying to work with committees on that this year,” McClelland said. “But we did have three legislative successes.”
Their successes include “Chloe’s Law,” which is a bill that mandates all infants be tested for congenital heart disease before they leave the hospital. Additionally, there was a telemedicine bill the Children’s Hospital supported that allowed physicians to be paid the same amount of money for services provided by telemedicine as they would if they were seeing the patient in the office. The third “legislative success” was a bill that mandated children who were suspected of being physically or sexually abused receive a “quality exam” when they go to a hospital or doctor’s office.
Looking toward next session, McClelland said the Hospital likely will work with a task force that has been investigating prematurity to use their findings to craft legislative recommendations.
“That would be a huge money saver for state Medicaid programs and healthcare in general,” she said.
There is also a degree of education involved in what McClelland does, as she said she has found most people don’t understand where children come in the Medicaid discussion.
“I think people probably don’t understand that the Medicaid program, probably 70 percent of the people who are on it are kids, and they are about 30 percent of the cost,” she said. “They are the cheapest group in Medicaid to provide services for. Investments in children today lead to better healthcare costs down the road.”
So what’s next for McClelland? Probably exactly what she’s doing now.
“I would like to [continue working for Children’s],” she said. “I love it. I hope to do it for as long as they let me or as long as I am able to.”
Ashley Jost is no longer with The Missouri Times. She worked as the executive editor for several months, and a reporter before that.