Health care reform is here.  Whether you were in support of its passage or not, it is the law of the land.  I hope we can agree we must be prepared for its implementation.  What will health care reform mean for occupational therapy moving forward?  What can we do as practitioners to shape the role of occupational therapy in this era of restructuring?  A large part of the implementation is being handed down to the states, which means our state occupational therapy associations will be front and center in the advocacy effort.

I hear the concerns from our state association presidents and leaders.  Low membership numbers impact the financial viability of the association and limit the resources state associations are able to provide.  A shortage of volunteers to do the necessary work for the profession at the state level leaves many state association leaders feeling overwhelmed.  The keeping ahead of the many legislative and regulatory issues impacting occupational therapy requires daily attention yet we have a good number of state occupational therapy associations without lobbyists to assist in this endeavor or to help coordinate advocacy efforts.

 As I indicated in my position statement, AOTA must invest resources in and support for our state affiliates.  Specifically, as implementation of reform shifts to the states it is essential that each of our state affiliates and our members are prepared to take on the advocacy challenge.  Decisions are being made daily regarding health care reform implementation in the states.  AOTA recently shared with the state association and AOTA leadership the supports they are putting in place to equip our state affiliates to be prepared for these important discussions.  As an organizational advisor to the AOTA Board, I was excited to see AOTA taking action to support the state affiliates.  I was pleased to see an action plan for efforts over the next four months.  I look forward to supporting AOTA and the state associations in securing our place at the table.  However, I believe we need to do more. 

As we do our strategic planning, we must take what we have today and look to the future.  We have state occupational therapy associations struggling to stay operational and lacking the needed volunteers.  We have the next generation of practitioners/leaders excited and eager to get involved.  AOTA is the link.  Increasing the health and stability of our state associations starts by investing resources and time today!  AOTA has mentoring programs for emerging leaders and middle managers in place now.  I would like to see a partnership between the state affiliates and AOTA for a state association leadership mentoring program.  I have worked with several states individually to begin developing mentoring programs and believe the AOTA resources and insight would be of great value to all of our state affiliates. 

Occupational therapy needs strong leadership at the state and national levels.  We need to be proactive and be aggressive in ensuring the survival of our state occupational therapy associations.  If elected the next Vice President of AOTA, I am committed to making this a priority and working to provide the supports necessary to grow and strengthen AOTA and our state affiliates.