Story by Emily Fawaz
On Sept. 25, occupational therapy students Caroline Rose and Heather Ackart from Colorado State University joined more than 600 occupational therapists and students from across the country on Capitol Hill for this years’ Hill Day. Hill Day is an annual event where students and occupational therapists join together to advocate for issues critical to the occupational therapy profession.
Ackart and Rose met with legislative assistants to Colorado Senator Cory Gardner, Congressmen Ed Perlmutter and Jared Polis. “Before we walked into the senator’s and congressman’s offices, I felt both anxiety and excitement!” said Rose. Ackart and Rose advocated first hand for three legislative issues related to evaluating clients receiving home health services, Medicare regulations in outpatient occupational therapy services and funding to treat underserved populations. “I really felt like an advocate of change in that moment; I felt like an expert,” said Rose.
After a busy day of advocacy and discussion at the Capitol, Rose and Ackart felt inspired by the receptiveness of the legislative assistants. However, Ackart explained, “There is a clear need for greater advocacy for issues related to the occupational therapy profession. In the end, not advocating would really be hurting those we serve.”
Making an impact
Staying up to date on political issues and taking advantage of opportunities like Hill Day are great ways to get involved. Rose expressed her desire for fellow students and therapists to keep the big picture in mind. “We get into the field for the individual but the profession still needs our help.”
Rose explained this experience and the impact she had was nothing like writing letters or any other advocacy she had done in the past. “Hill Day was very powerful and that is why I would go again.”
For more information about legislative issues regarding the occupational therapy profession visit the American Occupational Therapy Association website.