OT Scope of Practice Legislation Stalls in Senate

OT Scope of Practice Legislation Stalls in Senate [Government Affairs]

The 2020-2021 Legislative Session was the first of its kind for the State of Florida. In response to the global pandemic, the State Capitol closed its doors to the public around March 2020 and only reopened to the public in May of 2021. During this time legislators and relevant stakeholders met virtually for committee meetings, to provide testimonies, and execute the legislative process that, by Florida law, usually requires physical presence. Despite these challenges, the Florida Occupational Therapy Association (FOTA) was still able to continue service throughout to its constituents by advocating for an updated OT Scope of Practice (Scope).

The Occupational Therapy Practice Act had not been updated in over two decades. For the past two years, FOTA has been working with the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), the Florida Board of Occupational Therapy, and our sister professions to thoughtfully modernize language that reflects current & future practices. Prior to the start of the 2021 legislative session, FOTA enlisted the sponsorship of Representative Traci Koster and Senator Jennifer Bradley. These Bill sponsors were chosen because of their known track record for service to Florida’s citizens and involvement in committees that administer bills of this nature. The Governmental Affairs committee for FOTA and legislative representatives, Johnston & Stewart, vetted language with House and Senate staff while reviewing the language with key personnel from the Department of Health and Board of Occupational Therapy. FOTA’s Scope Bill was filed early to allow ample time for movement through committees. The House Bill 543 passed its two committees of reference and the entire House chamber unanimously. The Senate Bill 990 passed 2 of its 3 committees unanimously. When it was time for the final Senate Appropriations Committee vote, the Bill was surprisingly left off the agenda. Communication with the Appropriations Chair and the President’s office revealed no concerns other than they simply ran out of room on the agenda. It was sometime later FOTA learned the primary limiting factor was technical language included within the Bill referencing the Gardiner Scholarship Program (GSP). Because the GSP was repealed and merged into a different program during the same session, certain language in the OT Scope was rendered obsolete which ultimately prevented inclusion into law this session.

FOTA and its legislative representatives always go into Session as prepared as possible to meet the goals of the Association. Despite substantial preparation and due diligence, obstacles are ever-present and can quickly derail any legislative efforts. However, the progress made in 2021 has positioned FOTA to quickly overcome any dissent or conflict, and establish a renewed scope of practice in the 2022 Legislative Session. This updated Occupational Therapy Scope of Practice will not only help to identify our distinct value amongst healthcare providers in Florida, but also establish Florida as a leader in the advancement of occupational therapy practice worldwide.

As you read this, our Scope bills have again been filed in both chambers. On November 2nd, 2021, your association representatives spoke directly with at least eight different legislators involved in the vetting of FOTA’s proposed updates on the second Hill Day of the year. Along with soliciting feedback and support of these essential updates from the Florida Board of OT and Department of Health, Government Affairs representatives met with the Florida Behavioral Health Association and senate leaders to ensure the language and intent of the new Scope was tailored just right to avoid interference within various professional scopes.

The Florida Occupational Therapy Association thanks its president, the legislative affairs committee, and all the volunteers who have participated in this, and any other endeavor that supports the practice of OT in Florida. FOTA does not exist without the dedication of its volunteers who champion the mission to support practice, education, and advocacy through occupational therapy in Florida.

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