Homework could end up in hopper

Mitch Greenlick will have PSU students draft health policy bill

Mitch Greenlick has heard more than a few people say, 'There outta be a law.' Or something along those lines.

Now state Rep. Greenlick, D-Northwest Portland, is going to give those people a chance to make their own law, providing it has something to do with health care.

A few months ago Greenlick was asked by Portland State University's Professional Development Center to teach a springtime continuing education course.

Greenlick was a hard sell at first, according to Lori Silverman, program manager for the center. Eventually Greenlick consented, with a novel idea for the course.

Greenlick, who directed a Kaiser Permanente health research center for more than 30 years and has taught at the Oregon Health and Science University medical school, proposed that his class would not simply rely on lecture and discussion.

Instead the class will, if all goes well, find a problem in health care that needs to be addressed by a law, and craft the legislation for Greenlick to introduce at the next legislative session. Greenlick just happens to be chairman of the Legislature's health care committee.

The class goal makes perfect sense to Greenlick.

'Usually when I teach a class I try to have a real-life example that's involved,' he said. 'So I thought, Maybe if they can get an idea, we can craft a bill and introduce it and see how it flies.'

Silverman is delighted. 'I guess you could say for the professional development center this will be a first, and pretty exciting,' she said.

Greenlick's class will be the second in a health care leadership series offered by the PSU center. The four-hour classes will take place on four Friday afternoons beginning April 18.

Silverman said that the first session, which focused on health care management ethics, attracted 10 students, ranging from physicians and nonprofit advocates to executives for pharmaceutical companies. She expects a similar turnout this time, though anybody can sign up for Greenlick's course as long as they are willing to pay the $995 tuition.

Greenlick, who previously has taught in the PSU sociology department, said each of the four classes would involve a little lecture from him, a guest lecturer and a lot of discussion.

The guest lecturers should be able to provide advice. They will include Lorey Freeman, a health care specialist with the legislative counsel; Sandy Thiele-Cirka, a health care committee administrator; and Bruce Goldberg, director of the state Department of Human Services, which oversees public health.

But is four classes enough time to draft a bill?

'There will be homework,' Greenlick said. He also said that he is not expecting the class to produce the final language of a proposed bill. That job would fall to legislative counsel if a worthy proposal comes out of the class.

Greenlick said he hopes, if the course is successful, that students don't think their work is complete when they hand the proposal over to legislative counsel.

There will be, after all, a lot of lobbying in Salem if the bill is to become law.

'I would hope they'll come down and help it get passed,' Greenlick said.

PSU's Silverman said the class presents an opportunity for people who might be frustrated in dealing with the health care system.

'If I were sitting in a management role and I were frustrated by something, isn't this a great opportunity to act?' she said. 'And maybe I can influence the class to pick my topic.'

Greenlick said one of his goals is to show the students that government isn't all that hard to understand.

'What I'd really like to do is demystify the process of creating public health policy,' Greenlick said. 'People think it's this mystical thing. You don't always pass what you want to pass, but it's actually pretty straightforward.'

Silverman said that she intends to limit the class to 15 students. Anyone interested can register online at www.pdc.pdx.edu/healthcare .

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