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Occupational Therapy Students Take to the Hill  

Group of occupational therapy students on Capitol HillThe American Occupational Therapy Association's (AOTA) Hill Day is an annual national event for the profession of occupational therapy (OT). The goal of this day is to educate legislators and their aides on occupational therapy, as well as to garner support for specific bills that are of importance to the profession. Every year, all second-year students from the Master of Science in Occupational Therapy program participate by arranging congressional meetings in local offices or scheduling phone calls. This year, twenty students along with one faculty member travelled to Washington DC to attend meetings on Capitol Hill with staffers from the Senate and House of Representatives. School of Health and Medical Sciences occupational therapy students represented five states and nineteen Congressional districts.

"Advocacy is a critical skill set that students need in clinical settings to meet the needs of a particular client," explains, Dr. Meryl Picard, Assistant Professor in the Department of Occupational Therapy. "Hill Day provides the opportunity for students to connect the role of advocacy to larger health care concerns for populations served by occupational therapists. In addition, it affords students the opportunity to participate in government, improving their civic literacy."

The three bills focused on this year were the Medicare Home Health Flexibility Act, Allied Health Workforce Diversity Act, and Mental Health Professionals Workforce Shortage Loan Repayment Act. All three of these acts are meant to address current and emerging population health care needs and the OT profession in various ways. 

Group of occupational therapy students on Capitol HillDue to a narrow interpretation of a statute by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), occupational therapists cannot currently conduct the initial and comprehensive assessments for home health services even when occupational therapy is ordered in plan of care. The Medicare Home Health Flexibility Act would allow home health agencies to utilize OTs to perform the time-sensitive initial and comprehensive assessments when skilled nursing care is not ordered. This change would reduce waiting times for home care therapy and improve timely access to the appropriate rehabilitation professional. This budget neutral act, requiring no additional monetary appropriation for implementation, has received support from all major stakeholders that recognize the need for increased flexibility. 

The Allied Health Workforce Diversity Act increases opportunities for individuals underrepresented in the professions of occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech-language pathology, and audiology by providing grant funding to those professions' college and university programs. With this legislation, the healthcare workforce would more closely resemble the nation's society. This would improve access to care and patient choice and satisfaction.

Lastly, the Mental Health Professionals Workforce Shortage Loan Repayment Act is crucial to help increase the number of mental health professionals working in underserved areas. This bill would provide loan forgiveness to mental health professionals, who practice in underserved areas. 
Healthcare is forever changing and advocating for your profession is vital to make the changes positive. 

Categories: Health and Medicine

For more information, please contact:

  • Debra Olszewski
  • (973) 761-7145