|Advocacy Day 2014|
Touro College Occupational Therapy Assistant Students
Lobby in Albany and New York City
Julie Kardachi, MA, OTR/L
Occupational Therapy Assistant Program
Touro College School of Health Sciences
27-33 West 23rd St
Every year, the Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) class at Touro College participates in the New York State Occupational Therapy Association (NYSOTA) Lobby Day. We visit Albany, and lobby our legislators on issues related to our profession. This year, OTA students participated in lobbying both at Lobby Day in Albany and at a special meeting with Assembly Member Richard Gottfried (Manhattan), at his invitation, at his office in Lower Manhattan.
Over the last 2 years years, our lobbying efforts have focused on the regulations relating to Occupational Therapy Assistants in New York State, specifically the OTA licensing bill. This bill reflects the value of OTA practitioners and provides for effective monitoring of practice. Our students feel very strongly that the recognition and accountability that licensure gives them, acknowledges their efforts in working so hard to enter a profession they value. In their lobbying meetings, they fluently and passionately speak with legislators and their staff about the bill, and other occupational therapy (OT) issues.
Students become familiar with the issues through the 2nd year OTA Professional Development course, and have to complete assignments relating to this topic. These assignments include educating the first year students about the issues, or traveling to Albany with faculty to attend Lobby Day. Some of the first year students also volunteer to attend Lobby Day, even though they do not have to complete an assignment. It is a long and exciting day, starting around 6:00 am for the first bus pick up, and ending around 12 hours later with the final drop off. Once we arrive in Albany, we meet with the NYSOTA representatives and other students and practitioners participating in Lobby Day, to hear updates about the issues and talking points. We then divide into groups either to keep appointments with individual legislators to discuss the OTA bill and other OT issues, or to visit legislative offices, handing out information about the bill and these OT issues. During one meeting, Assembly Member Weprin (Queens) agreed to co-sponsor our bill - an example of extremely successful lobbying. We also visit the Senate floor with Senator Tim Kennedy (Buffalo), who is also an occupational therapist.
It was during a visit to Assembly Member Gottfried’s office that our students were invited by his staff to meet with him personally in his office on Broadway, near City Hall. The week he wanted to meet was April 14 – 18, which was our Spring Break, and yet, 7 dedicated students came into the city, professionally dressed and ready to present the OTA issues on the Friday, a day when they not have a regular class scheduled, and when they were off for spring break. What an exciting meeting it was! Through security and up to the floor, where Assembly Member Gottfried met us and we reviewed the issue of OTA licensure. Each student spoke eloquently about the need for OTA licensure and the effect it will have on them and the profession as a whole. The Assembly Member took many notes and agreed to look into the matter further and offer his support. It was another example of a successful lobbying effort by the Occupational Therapy Assistant Students from Touro College.
Addendum: The OTA Licensure bill is scheduled for committee hearing. Look forward to hearing continued successful positive impact of the Touro College OTA students and faculty professional advocacy efforts.
On the Senate floor with Senator Tim Kennedy, OTR (2013)
In the Senate Chamber with Senator Tim Kennedy, OTR (2014)
Meeting with Assembly Member Weprin in Albany
Meeting with Assembly Member Gottfried in New York City