Touro College Occupational Therapy Assistant Students Advocate for COTA Licensure in Albany
By Julie Kardachi, Co-Chair and Director of the Touro College School of Health Sciences Occupational Therapy Assistant Department
Earlier this month Touro College Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) students participated with enthusiasm in New York state Occupational Therapy Association’s (NYSOTA) annual Advocacy Day.
As has been the case in the years since the revised Occupational Therapy Practice Act was passed in 2010 and subsequent bills in 2012 addressed issues related to licensure, continuing education, fieldwork and supervision, the OTA students focused specifically on the issue of COTA licensure in New York state.
This important piece of legislation would reflect the value of OTA practitioners and provide for effective monitoring of practice; currently, OTA’s are required to take and pass the certification exam given by the National Board for the Certification of Occupational Therapists (NBCOT), which certifies them as eligible to practice (COTA), but are not granted a NYS license. They are “permitted to practice” and required to engage in appropriate supervision and continuing education, but our COTAs wish to legitimately use the credential COTA/L, reflecting the recognition and accountability provided by licensure.
Touro College OTA 2nd year students study advocacy issues during their Professional Development course. As part of their assignments, they choose to either take the long and exciting trip to Albany, or to provide 1st year students with background about the advocacy issues. As a result of the students’ passion in their presentations, many 1st year students also attend the day, even though it is not associated with an assignment for them. Our students are committed to their future as COTAs, and want their efforts to enter a profession they value to be acknowledged by licensure.
Like many other attendees at the NYSOTA Advocacy Day, Touro College OTA students, along with students and faculty from the OT program, start the day very early (some are picked up by our bus at 5:30 am), professionally dressed and ready for action! We make the long trip to Albany, and return home well over 12 hours later. It is a day filled with new sights and experiences, and for many, the first glimpse of government “close up”. Upon our arrival at the Capitol, students and faculty join other NYSOTA members to review the issues in the Legislative Office Building Lobby. We then disperse to either attend scheduled meetings with legislators, or to visit legislative offices to educate legislators and their staff about the issues.
Here are two examples of successful advocacy efforts by the Occupational Therapy Assistant Students from Touro College: 1). A very exciting and productive meeting with the staff of Assemblywoman Barbara Clark, who represents the area where 2 of our students live. Each student spoke passionately about the effect that COTA licensure will have on them and the profession as a whole. The staff was very interested in the issue, took detailed notes to present to the Assemblywoman, and indicated that it is likely she will support the COTA licensure legislation, as she strongly supports her constituents who will be the ultimate beneficiaries of this bill. 2). We also had a photo taken with Assemblyman David Weprin, who, as a result of meeting with our students last year, is a co-sponsor of the COTA licensure bill A.1798.
Current status: The OTA Licensure bill, S.1567, was reported out of the Senate Higher Education Committee for the past 2 years and referred to the Senate Finance Committee. We are still hoping for action on bill A.1798 in the Assembly. Touro College OTA students and faculty will continue our professional advocacy efforts in this area.