On July 11th the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Health met, and unanimously approved an amendment, which added the language from the Allied Health Workforce Diversity Act of 2019 to to HR 2781.
AOTA volunteer and policy staff’s hard work resulted in introduction of the Allied Health Workforce Diversity Act of 2019 on July 9th in the US House of Representatives. The legislation is an important step to expand occupational therapy to be more reflective of the cultural, racial, ethnic, disability, and economic diversity of the nation as a whole. The bill proposes the creation of a new program to provide assistance to college and university programs to reach out to and support students from disadvantaged backgrounds with scholarships, stipends, and other resources. For specifics about the legislation, check out the first episode of the Policy team’s podcast, Policy Matters.
This introduction follows a consistent recognition of the need for a diverse occupational therapy profession expressed in the Centennial Vision, Vision 2020, and many other activities of AOTA and profession. The Coalition of Occupational Therapy Advocates for Diversity (COTAD); the Multicultural, Diversity, and Inclusion (MDI) Network; as well as the AOTA Board of Directors and Representative Assembly have long addressed aspects of diversity and cultural competence in the profession to meet the emerging needs of American society.
Securing the bipartisan support of lead sponsors Representative Bobby Rush (D-IL) and Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) is advantageous for a number of reasons. Both are members of the Energy and Commerce Committee – the committee that will consider the bill, both are widely respected by Democrats and Republicans, and both are strong champions for diversity and inclusion in our nation.
The legislation resulted from AOTA leaders reaching out to American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), the American Academy of Audiologists (AAA), and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) to collaborate on developing and promoting the legislation.
On July 11th, the Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Health will meet to vote on H.R. 2781, the Educating Medical Professionals and Optimizing Workforce Efficiency and Readiness for Health Act of 2019 (EMPOWER for Health Act of 2019). H.R. 2187 will reauthorize the health workforce programs under Title VII of the Public Health Service Act. As discussed on the podcast linked above, the Allied Health Workforce Diversity Act will creates a new health workforce program within Title VII. It models existing legislation supporting other health professions. This provides us with the most historically successful path forward: including the language in a larger bill.
Including multiple bills in larger legislative packages is the most common way a bill becomes law. When the Committee considers H.R. 2781, Rep. Rush will offer an amendment to add the language from the smaller workforce bill to the much larger legislation. The programs under Title VII are important, and have wide, bipartisan support within Congress.
Take action on the AOTA Legislative Action Center. Follow me on Twitter @AbeAOTA for live updates on the process and to ask questions.
#FederalAffairs #PublicAffairs #OTadvocacy #advocacy #professionaladvocacy #EducationOfOT