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Hawaii is 50th State to Enact Licensure Law for Occupational Therapy Practitioners

Honolulu, Hi. (July 3, 2014) —With the signature of Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) on July 2, Hawaii has become the 50th state to license occupational therapists and the 49th to license occupational therapy assistants. The legislation passed both chambers of the Hawaii General Assembly with bipartisan support.

“This is not only a great victory for occupational therapy practitioners in Hawaii, but more importantly for consumers of our services,” said Avis Sakata, OTR, CAPS, President of the Occupational Therapy Association of Hawaii. “I am proud of the purely grassroots efforts led by our membership and with the support of key legislators and representatives from the state’s Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA), we were able to attain licensure.”

According to the newly-signed S.B. 2472, practitioners in Hawaii will be licensed under the Occupational Therapy Program within the DCCA. Under the law, beginning with the Dec. 31, 2014, renewal period, each active occupational therapist registration will be converted to an occupational therapy license. The occupational therapy assistant licensure provisions will go into effect Jan. 1, 2017, allowing time for rules to be promulgated and for occupational therapy assistants to meet new practice requirements.

Hawaii is the last state in the U.S. to require licensing for occupational therapists. Colorado passed its legislation for occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants in June 2013. 

The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) has been working alongside state occupational therapy associations and state legislators for more than 40 years to enact licensure laws across the U.S. As a result, licensure laws for occupational therapists exist in 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Occupational therapy assistant licensure laws are now on the books in 49 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. New York is the only state that does not currently have a licensure law for occupational therapy assistants. However, the New York State Occupational Therapy Association continues to pursue licensure legislation.

“Enactment of this law is certainly a momentous achievement for the profession and a great advancement for occupational therapy consumers in Hawaii, as the new law will enhance regulation of the profession and will elevate practice standards in the state,” said Josh Veverka, State Policy Analyst at the American Occupational Therapy Association. “Full licensure protects consumers by ensuring occupational therapy practitioners are qualified to perform the full range of services.”

In addition to requiring licensure for occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants, the Hawaii law also adopts contemporary scope of practice language to ensure that consumers have access to the full range of occupational therapy interventions that will enable them to participate in everyday life activities. Consumer protection will be enhanced through the establishment of the Occupational Therapy Advisory Committee composed of practicing occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants to assist with implementation of the law.

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.