Engaging OT Graduate Students in Advocacy and Government Affairs in California

Appeared in: Occupational Therapy Association of California

By: Guy McCormack

Published on: 02/17/12

We anticipate that this legislative session will be a very busy year for the OTAC Advocacy and Government Affairs Committee (AGAC). Considering that health reform initiatives will come from the state level and Governor Brown has proposed significant budget cuts it will be important for OTAC committees to work closely with our lobbyist (Jennifer Snyder, MPH, Capitol Advocacy) and Chuck Wilmarth, AOTA State, Regulatory, and Reimbursement Director, to position occupational therapy in the forefront of legislative change.

For example, telehealth legislation is showing that Intel-GE Care Innovations, a partnership between Intel's Digital Health Group and General Electric Healthcare's Home Health, is proposing to become one of the world leaders in technology solutions for aging adults. In addition, the California Legislature has passed a series of funding cuts for the Medi-Cal program, but health care providers have sued and won a judge's orders for stopping the cuts from taking effect. In respect to autism, Senator Steinberg pushed Senate Bill 946 as his third attempt to require insurance companies to cover behavioral therapy for children with autism. Governor Jerry Brown eliminated the Adult Day Health Care program; his administration has designated the state's Medi-Cal managed care plans as the entity to insure the program's 35,000 seniors. Physical therapy will continue to push for legislation to become direct access service providers.

These are just a few of the issues we are actively monitoring and advocating for this legislative session. Serving on OTAC's AGAC is very exhilarating, as well as requires dedication, because the changes to legislative language needs to be reviewed almost daily with the guidance and support of our lobbyist. OTAC takes a position of support, opposition, watch, or neutral depending upon the contingencies and implications of each position. Position adoption in OTAC is a collaborative approach. Many conference calls are conducted to discuss the issues and implications for the membership of OTAC.

This semester I have incorporated an assignment in the Administration and Management course at Samuel Merritt University. As part of the requirements for the course, 36 graduate students will help plan visits to their local legislators to expand the representation of OTAC members in the process of advocacy and understanding the implications of legislation that will affect the practice of occupational therapy. In the Administration and Management course we will formulate teams to go to Sacramento to visit legislators and their staff, attend important hearings, or organize receptions for legislators in OTAC Region 3 to simulate the successful activities that have been organized in Region 2 in Southern California.

The students at Samuel Merritt University have expressed much interest in this assignment and as very capable adult learners will gain skills in participation in their professional state association. I am certain we will foster internet communications among the occupational therapy assistant and graduate occupational therapy programs in California. We will keep you posted.

Source: http://www.otaconline.org/images/stories/pdfs/newsletter/12/feb2012newsletter.pdf

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