« March 2015 Issue

Community Catalyst Welcomes Anton Gunn to Board of Directors

Community Catalyst Welcomes Anton Gunn to Board of Directors

Anton Gunn, Chief Diversity Officer of the Medical University of South Carolina Health Center, has joined Community Catalyst’s Board of Directors. Gunn previously worked as Director of External Affairs for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Though a new board member, Gunn’s relationship with Community Catalyst stretches back to the organization’s earliest days. At age 23, Gunn was hired by a South Carolina non-profit organization building a team of local health leaders to advocate for change in their community. Gunn’s boss thought he could benefit from training on how to be an effective advocate and suggested he seek assistance from Community Catalyst (then in its formative years). In 1996, Gunn flew to Boston and met with the team igniting a passion for improving health care access, quality and affordability in the United States.

“Community Catalyst trained me to become a health advocate – and that turned into a 20 year career in health policy and advocacy work,” said Gunn. “I've been a federal policymaker, state legislator, and a lobbyist. Community Catalyst gave me the training I needed to be effective in my community and the ability to learn what was happening in other communities. Now I can give back by serving on the board.”

Gunn hopes his experience working on health care issues as an advocate and former member of the South Carolina House of Representatives – where he was the first African American elected in his district – will prove valuable in Community Catalyst’s work in addressing the unique health care challenges Southern Americans face. Gunn worked with Community Catalyst on a successful campaign to increase the tobacco tax in Southern states to expand access to health insurance for children.

“You’re looking at a product of Community Catalyst’s work in the South. It’s a journey I started 19 years ago that has allowed me to play a major role in the implementation of national health care,” Gunn said. “I want to help turn the tide in an area that's the fastest growing – in terms of population and the number of immigrants – but where there are huge health disparities. I can bring the Southern perspective to the table.”

After serving as a Regional Director in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Gunn eventually moved his way up to become a senior official in the Obama Administration advising President Barack Obama and HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on public engagement strategies surrounding the introduction of the Affordable Care Act.

Gunn said his experience going from the state to the federal level was eye opening but also made him want to return working at the local level.

“At the state level everything is only as complex as your state. But at the federal level, you’re working with all 50 states, each with a different governor and with different politics,” he said. “At the federal level, you always hear about how many millions of lives you can impact, but you see that firsthand working at the local level.”

“We’re very fortunate to have Anton join our board,” said Executive Director Rob Restuccia. “He has intersected with the health care policy world at every level – as a community and state advocate, a legislator, a federal policymaker, and now as someone working within the delivery system. This gives him a unique political, policy and advocacy perspective that will be tremendously helpful to Community Catalyst, particularly as we embark on health system transformation, the next phase of health reform.”

Gunn has experienced firsthand the impact Community Catalyst has in helping state organizations be effective when addressing health issues, as well as the organization’s impact on the federal level. In particular, he cites the organization’s work with the enrollment community and how it has helped inform the federal government’s ACA enrollment efforts. One area he hopes to grow with Community Catalyst is raising the importance of health care from a cultural perspective.

“We have to find a way to elevate American consciousness around the importance of health care. It has to be culturally important to people… we have to find a way to make health care about everyday conversations the way we talk about education or other issues,” Gunn said. “That is when we transform health care in a way that has an impact.”

Jessicah Pierre, Communications Associate

O N   T H E   W I R E

Last week the health care justice community lost one of our visionaries and strongest leaders, Andy Hyman.

Jessica Curtis, a Senior Advisor to Community Catalyst, explains in The New York Times that new rules for non-profit hospitals will protect low-income people from price gouging and increase transparency about financial assistance available to patients.

In The Washington Post, Michael Miller, Policy Director, discussed the potential impact on consumers who would lose financial help paying for insurance if the Supreme Court strikes down tax credits for premiums in the King vs. Burwell case.

Robert Restuccia, Executive Director, cautioned the Obama administration to carefully assess new Medicaid waiver provisions approved in Indiana before allowing other states to implement similar measures in The New York Times.

Jessica Curtis told USA Today that high deductible health plans contribute to widespread issues of medical debt.

Join us in welcoming a new staff member and in congratulating staff members who have been promoted recently: Jack Cardinal joins us as a Communications Manager; Tera Bianchi is now a Senior State Advocacy Manager; Angela Jenkins is now the Value Advocacy Project Manager; and Emily Polak is now Associate Director of State Consumer Health Advocacy.

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