Nine Master of Occupational Therapy students from the St. Augustine campus met with legislative offices during AOTA Hill Day in September.
The American Occupational Therapy Association’s annual Hill Day on September 19 brought hundreds of people to the nation’s capital to advocate for their profession, including 9 students and one faculty member from the St. Augustine campus of the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences.
The third-term Master of Occupational Therapy students spent the weekend touring the Capitol, visiting museums and monuments across the National Mall, and paying their respects at Arlington National Cemetery. Accompanied by faculty member Sheri Montgomery, OTR/L, OTD, FAOTA, on Hill Day they met with the offices of senators and representatives from Florida and Louisiana.
One of the students, Elizabeth Tatum, the advocacy representative for the campus Student Occupational Therapy Association, underscored the importance of the day: “The political side of the profession affects our future in this career.”
One issue that interested students was legislation for Medicate to cover the cost of wraps and compression supplies for patients with lymphedema. The incurable condition causes swelling in the arms or legs that can affect daily functioning for as many as 5 million people in the United States. Proper treatment can improve quality of life and reduce the need for costly hospitalizations.
The students also spoke up for legislation to allow occupational therapists to make an initial assessment during a home visit rather than waiting for one to be done by a physical therapist or speech-language therapist, which can delay care. “A lot of times the occupational therapist is the only person these clients need, and a physical therapist will open a case, discharge them, and refer them to occupational therapy because they don’t really need to see them,” Tatum says. “Sometimes a patient doesn’t get seen for weeks.”
Individually and collectively, the students met with the offices of Sen. Bill Nelson, Sen. Marco Rubio, Rep. Ron DeSantis, and Rep. Lois Frankel from Florida and Sen. Bill Cassidy, Sen. David Vitter, and Rep. John Fleming from Louisiana.
“These legislative aides were listening to what we had to say and did care,” say Tatum. “When we left D.C., we felt like we had honestly made a difference.”