January 30 was a day that showed the impact of our profession on the State level. IOTA sponsored annual Hill Day, our first in-person since 2020. Caroline Merrit, our advocate and liaison, arranged the day and sent a blast out to the representatives, senators and staff encouraging them to come and meet us. They were able to connect with OT practitioners, students, educators, and IOTA board members from across the state in person and via Zoom.
“I could not be prouder as the Idaho Occupational Therapy Association President as to how our practitioners and students represented our profession when interacting with legislators. We accomplished our goal of making connections, educating on the issues that affect our profession and advocating for our scope of practice. It was also very cool to watch legislators interact with practitioners in other parts of the state on ZOOM! We have momentum moving forward now to make real change in policy with the connections we made today.” – Megan Doyle, IOTA president
Students and practitioners worked hard to educate all that stopped by about occupational therapy. We got a lot of practice with our elevator speeches and connected with common experiences.
“This experience helped me learn how to talk and build confidence.” – Hannah (ISU OTA student).
Grip strength testing was available, and information about keeping hands strong while on the campaign trail, thanks to AOTA’s Grip and Grin campaign. Many lawmakers were excited to see just how strong they are. You will be happy to know that all of our legislators fell within normal limits, making them better able to engage in their occupations! A brake reaction timer was also available, making sure they are fit to react while driving. No one failed that test either, making our roads safer as they travel. As they tested their skills, OTPs took the opportunity to network and educate about the needs of our profession.
“It was a fun day getting to advocate for our profession.” – Andrea Belcoe (IOTA OTA representative)
“It is a lot of work to advocate, but worth it!” – Elizabeth, CWI student
Prior to the event, issues were identified and talking points were provided the day of the event. Our talking points included:
- Medicare Part B cuts to OT services, especially OTA payment differential
- Permanent Occupational Therapy Services via Telehealth
- Access to OT services for mental/behavioral health services
- OT licensure compact
The talking points helped students and practitioners to provide the information our legislators may not know. For some, this was a little intimidating. But those who stopped by were interested in what we had to say and were receptive to our message. Legislators were willing to take the time to chat with those who joined us via zoom.
“It was very inspirational. We talk about advocacy in school, but it was great to see it in action. I was glad to be able to participate via zoom” – Jenna (ISU OTA student)
“As a student it is great to network.” – Nicole (CWI student) “It was about communicating who we are to get to the right people” – Kylie Hohwieler (South Central District Rep)
We made some great contacts with the people that shape our laws. Several were interested to hear about the potential for the OT compact and the senate minority leader was interested in championing our cause to increase access to OT in mental health.
“Amazing opportunity to network” Alexandra, CWI student “It was a great experience! It was wonderful advocating for our profession” – Lauren Harvey, IOTA Continuing Education Chair
While we were meeting and greeting, there was much going on behind the scenes. In the House meeting, changes in the way we use physical agents were introduced and successfully passed. Next, the Senate will hear and hopefully pass, giving us more flexibility in our practices. In addition to the changes in DPAMS, our organization is working with other state associations regarding proposed changes to our licensing board structure.
Know that IOTA is working hard to advocate for you! Each of us can have an impact, and if we don’t advocate for our profession, who will?
If you are interested in helping with advocacy, please contact Lisa Hong at firstname.lastname@example.org
If advocacy isn’t your thing, there are other ways to participate as well. Join IOTA as a regional representative or committee member. There is a place for everyone.