Jonathan Sachs believes that public policy can improve people’s lives. He puts that belief into practice as director of public policy and community engagement at Adventist HealthCare, Montgomery County’s first and largest provider of health-care services.
Prior to joining Adventist in 2013, the 27-year-old Silver Spring native served as the director of public affairs for the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce and as campus mobilization director for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
The Bethesda resident interned on Capitol Hill for Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) in 2005, and in 2009 served as a press intern for the House Energy and Commerce Committee, chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.).
Sachs graduated from the University of Maryland, College Park in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in government and politics. From 2008 to 2009, Sachs was president of the University of Maryland College Democrats and student body president of the University of Maryland Student Government Association.
We recently caught up with Sachs to discuss health-care literacy, standing up for Israel on campus and making Montgomery County an even better place to live and work.
What issues do you work on as director of public policy at Adventist?
I’m responsible for all of our government relations at the federal, state and local level. I’ve worked in the past on a myriad of issues including improving access to health care services, specifically mental health services for adolescents and young children.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
There’s a national trend for more folks to become health care literate. Despite all of us caring about our health and the health of our families, it’s still very difficult for us to understand how health care works, how it’s regulated and how we get access to services.
What give you most the satisfaction in your job?
I love the mission of the organization. We talk about demonstrating God’s care. As much as I love helping people, I’m not equipped to treat people myself. But what I can do to contribute to helping folks who are sick get well is to help work to create an environment where more people can have access to care.
How did you get involved in health-care policy?
[As a press intern on the House Energy and Commerce Committee] I got to see them marking up the Affordable Care Act. I got to be in the room when they were doing hearings until 1 in the morning. I got to interact with members and with staff. I got to go to a lot of hearings, both on the Senate and the House side about it. Seeing how complicated the system is and listening also to the politics, I really became interested and attracted to [health care] from a policy perspective.
As a former campus mobilization director for AIPAC, what are your thoughts on the atmosphere for pro-Israel students on college campuses?
I’m not as close to it as I was a few years ago. I know that it’s really important for college students to get engaged, informed and involved when it comes to advocating for Israel. One of the things that I think is a fundamental tenet is that regardless of how you feel politically on the issues, I think it’s extremely vital for not only the Jewish people but for the world to have a strong Israel in the Middle East.
What makes Montgomery County such a great place to live and work?
Our diversity of people and that not only means ethnicity to me but perspectives and interests. We have all these amazing minds and people who contribute in such a big way to the world or to business or politics or to economics, and they’re all living here and they’re all attached to local issues. They’re informed and engaged with their communities in a very high level. It’s something that when you go to other parts of the country you know that it’s unusual, and I just think it’s very cool.
What could be done to make Montgomery County a better place to live and work?
One of the things that I’d like to see us do more of is attract more businesses to Montgomery County, create an environment where more businesses can come in and really grow jobs. The other thing we need to tackle, from the perspective of someone in their 20s, is affordable housing and access to affordable housing around transit. Those are quality of life issues and important for Montgomery County too.