Delaware PT Scope of Practice Bill Amended to Address OT Concerns


Governor Markell (D) signed legislation last week to revise the state physical therapists and athletic trainers’ licensing law. The bill revises definitions for “practice of physical therapy” and “athletic training,” but thanks to quick and decisive action by the Delaware Occupational Therapy Association (DOTA) and the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), the final definition for “physical therapy practice” was refined to address concerns raised by occupational therapy practitioners in the state. 

Delaware House Bill 359 was introduced at the recommendation of the General Assembly’s joint sunset committee with just over a month left in the 2014 legislative session. This late introduction quickly received the blessing of the committee which drafted the measure but left little time for debate on the proposal by the full House and Senate.  Typically legislation originating from sunset review is not overly controversial due to the process of developing the proposal, but HB 359 included several updates to the physical therapy practice act that could have potentially expanded the physical therapy scope of practice in Delaware as defined by state law. Upon initially analyzing the legislation, AOTA state policy staff alerted the state association to the new scope of practice language stating that physical therapy practice includes “functional training in self-care and in home, community, or work integration or reintegration.”  

With little time to act on the quickly moving bill, DOTA made the necessary decision to engage a contract lobbyist on the ground in the state capital to help them voice concern over the proposed language with legislators and other interested parties.  “Our OT advocates and volunteers in the states can do great work in the legislative and regulatory arena,” said Josh Veverka, AOTA’s state policy analyst, “but having trusted professional representation who knows how to navigate the legislative process is invaluable when seeking to advocate for OT with state policymakers, that’s why we recommended that DOTA seek a lobbyist.” 

With the help of their lobbyist DOTA worked with the Delaware Physical Therapy Association, the Delaware Examining Board of Physical Therapists and Athletic Trainers, and the sponsors of the legislation to offer reasonable amendments to clarify the context of physical therapy evaluation and intervention.  For example, a key provision in the final bill now reads that physical therapy practice includes “functional training related to physical movement and mobility in self-care and in home, community, or work integration or reintegration.”  

Thanks to this successful advocacy effort, the sponsors and supporters of HB 359 agreed on the proposed amendment language, allowing the new practice act to move through the House and Senate and toward final enactment.  This positive outcome is a perfect example of how AOTA and the state associations work together to advocate for the profession. Membership in AOTA, DOTA and other state associations provide us with the resources to actively and effectively engage in these issues on your behalf.