Association to Congress: Occupational Therapy is Key Resource in Treatment of Mental Illness
AOTA promotes HR 3762 at well-attended Capitol Hill briefing
WASHINGTON, DC — The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) sponsored a House & Senate Congressional staff briefing today in support of the Occupational Therapy Mental Health Act (HR 3762). The event examined the important clinical role that the nation’s occupational therapists play in helping consumers manage serious mental illness like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major clinical depression, and PTSD, and achieve optimal functional performance in their everyday lives.
Virginia “Ginny” Stoffel, PhD, OT, BCMH, FAOTA, American Occupational Therapy Association vice president and associate professor in the Department of Occupational Science & Technology at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, called the briefing a success in promoting occupational therapy for treatment of mental illness.
“We were able to bring a clear message about how occupational therapy is different from other professions and how it makes an impact in a person’s life. I think that people walked away with a clear and consistent message. The power and clarity of the message is what really got accomplished,” said Stoffel. “I believe that we have so much to offer in the provision of quality care to individuals in the mental health and substance abuse systems. I have spent the first 10 to 15 years of my practice as an occupational therapist in this kind of a setting. It is why I am still a very proud occupational therapist.”
The briefing was attended by more than a dozen congressional offices’ staff members, representatives from other associations including the American Psychiatric Association and students enrolled in Howard University’s occupational therapy program. A representative from the National Alliance on Mental Illness was also on hand to demonstrate that organization’s support of the initiative.
In addition to Stoffel, other speakers included Jeffrey S. Janofsky, MD, associate professor, director of the psychiatry and law program, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD; Shira Zapinsky, MS in occupational therapy candidate, Towson University Class of 2012, Towson, MD; and Brooke Ward, MOT, OTR/L, Baptist Memorial Hospital, Memphis, TN. Each gave practical examples of how occupational therapy practitioners are an important part of the team that treats a patient with a mental illness.
“Today’s briefing was a success in that it opened the eyes of Congressional decision makers about the role of occupational therapy as part of mental health and substance abuse treatment teams,” said Tim Nanof, AOTA’s Director of Federal Affairs. “It was clear that occupational therapy’s impact is practical and powerful.”
AOTA supports the legislation that would add occupational therapists to the current list of “behavioral and mental health professionals” in the National Health Services Corps (NHSC), making occupational therapists eligible to participate in the NHSC Scholarship and Loan Repayment Programs.
U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko (D-NY) along with co-sponsors U.S. Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Jerry McNerney (D-CA), Louise Slaughter (D-NY), and Corrine Brown (D-FL), introduced the measure in December. To track HR 3762 or to learn more, click here, or AOTA’s Legislative Action Center.
To schedule an interview with a member of AOTA’s legislative staff or an occupational therapy practitioner who works in the mental health field, call AOTA Media Relations Manager Katie Riley, 301-652-6611, ext. 2963 (office), 301-602-4526 (cell) or e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about the Association’s legislative efforts, call AOTA Director of Federal Affairs Tim Nanof at 301-652-6611, ext. 2100 or e-mail email@example.com.
Founded in 1917, the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) represents the professional interests and concerns of more than 140,000 occupational therapists, assistants, and students nationwide. The Association educates the public and advances the profession of occupational therapy by providing resources, setting standards including accreditations, and serving as an advocate to improve health care. Based in Bethesda, Md., AOTA’s major programs and activities are directed toward promoting the professional development of its members and assuring consumer access to quality services so patients can maximize their individual potential. For more information, go to www.aota.org.