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Yesterday, hundreds of occupational therapy professionals engaged the halls of power at the annual AOTA Hill Day in Washington D.C. Although official attendance numbers are not yet available, all indications point to another rousing assembly being present for the full day of legislative lobbying. As someone who has had the privilege of taking part in multiple Hill Days with both the APTA and AOTA, I can tell you first hand the overwhelming sense of purpose and pride that shine through at these events. It is a day when critical issues get a hearing and personal testimonials provide important emotional impact with corresponding legislative initiatives. The day of OT advocacy has been increasingly populated by students in recent years; bringing a youthful energy to the proceedings. It also highlights the importance of informed advocacy on the future of the profession for those that will carry the torch for decades to come.

With each state being represented by a contingent of educators, students, and practitioners, the AOTA gives issue briefs, role-playing scenarios, and time management tips to ensure maximum impact. Hill Day also solicits an onslaught of virtual support through its legislative action center, which includes tools like sample press releases and online form letters to educate decision makers through the power of the written word for those unable to be physically present. This year continued to see the push for a permanent repeal of the seemingly indestructible therapy caps, which has been covered extensively on this blog. The cautious optimism of last year faded into another status quo extension when the predictable fights over how to pay for it broke out.

Despite bi-partisan support for a cap repeal, as well as a fix to the larger SGR problem know as the “doc fix”, it remains to be seen whether partisan rancor can give way to common sense reform. Another featured issue at this years gathering was the role of occupational therapy in mental health. CMS (center for Medicaid/Medicare services) recently designated occupational therapy as a core component of mental health services. Congress recently passed the Excellence in Mental Health Act, although the rules of this legislation are still being written. AOTA is urging its members to fight hard to include occupational therapy in the new certified behavioral health clinics. You can learn more here.

Other issues coming to the forefront included the restoration of federal education sequester cuts for special education and increasing acceptance and expansion of occupational services delivered via telemedicine. We urge you to learn more and make your voice heard at the AOTA Legislative Action Center.  Advanced Medical is proud to support the AOTA and looks forward to attending the AOTA student conclave in St. Louis. Until next time…