Sheri Montgomery: Conducting Grassroots Advocacy
Sheri Montgomery, OTR/L, FAOTA
Much of Sheri’s role as an OT Champion has focused on advocacy. She notes that she has the opportunity to meet with legislators at the local, state, and federal levels on a regular basis, and when they communicate via e-mail she always provides input on issues relevant to the profession as noted by AOTA advocacy staff. She makes a point to attend local “meet and greet” sessions held in her area to be sure legislators recognize that she is involved in the community and to help them to gain a better understanding of occupational therapy in their represented area. She contributes to AOTPAC and encourages others to do so. She also mentors other therapists and students to encourage them to become leaders and advocate for the profession.
Through all of this communication, Sheri has discovered that legislators like to hear from their constituents. She notes that they consider the information, then share their perspective, which helps us to focus the occupational therapy messages that will be most meaningful to them.
Sheri also meets with local elected officials and her city (Evanston, Wyoming) and county planning committee to discuss accessibility within the community. She provides information such as sidewalk cutout recommendations, grades of entryway to public buildings, and bathroom requirements. By helping to improve community mobility for residents, she is demonstrating the value of occupational therapy.
Outside of the policy arena, Sheri has participated in local health fairs with other occupational therapists in her community. Together they have provided community members with information related to occupational therapy’s role in fall prevention, back pack safety, adaptive equipment, and generalized home and community safety for citizens of all ages.
During all of this community work, Sheri discovered that youth with special needs in the state of Wyoming did not have the opportunity to attend an outdoor overnight camp experience. As a result, she and several co-workers established Camp Carpe Diem. Camp Carpe Diem has been hosted for 5 years, providing more than 45 youth from throughout Wyoming with a positive, yet challenging outdoor experience while helping them develop leadership and improve their self-advocacy skills. The camp has provided an excellent opportunity to share the value of occupational therapy with staff, community volunteers, and campers and their families. As an added bonus, the Camp has received extensive media coverage.
During Occupational Therapy month, Sheri promotes the profession to local physicians, other service providers, and consumers. She has placed ads on the local radio stations and articles in her county newspapers. Stories about former clients support the value and unique opportunities and benefits from occupational therapy services. She advises those who want to promote the profession to lead by example, and to talk about what they are doing whenever the opportunity arises.