OTA Students Advocate to Improve Client Access at State Capitol

Published: January 31, 2023

Students in College of Western Idaho’s (CWI) Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) program spent the day at the Idaho State Capitol to learn more about their future profession’s advocation and the need to improve services in emerging areas. CWI’s OTA junior cohort took part in Idaho Occupational Therapy Association (IOTA) Capitol Hill Day on Monday, Jan. 30.

Each legislative session, IOTA set up a table at the Capitol rotunda to provide occupational therapy practitioners (OTP) and OTAs with the opportunity to meet with state representatives. OTPs and OTAs discuss with legislators the issues impacting the quality and provision of occupational therapy (OT) services in the state.

This year, OT professionals spoke to lawmakers about issues, such as access to mental health services, practicing OT across state lines, permanent OT services via Telehealth, and more.

“This year's Capitol Hill Day showed the importance of advocating and educating Idaho legislators about the distinct value of occupational therapy, especially its need in emerging practices and mental health services,” said OTA student, Megan Gibb. “My Capitol Hill Day experience taught me that building a good relationship with your local legislators provides advocacy opportunities to educate, plead on behalf of others, and raise awareness for issues currently impacting the profession. IOTA works diligently to ensure occupational therapy is valued, protected, and that effective advocacy efforts are accomplished, thereby promoting positive changes within the profession.”

Besides meeting state legislators, CWI OTA students met with OT students and practitioners from around the state to learn about issues currently impacting the profession. It also gave students an opportunity to meet with potential future fieldwork educators.

"I was inspired by my experience at Capitol Hill Day with IOTA in seeing the work and time that practitioners put into this event to advocate for the profession,” said OTA student, Kaila Boeck. “Practitioners and students traveled from around the state to attend this event. There were even practitioners from Coeur d'Alene who were present on Zoom to speak with legislators in a ‘Table Talk’ discussion. Seeing the lengths practitioners and students took to lobby for changes in Idaho motivates me to continue being a voice for this amazing profession!"

For more information on CWI's OTA program, visit their program page or contact Program Director and Instructor, Mel Henderson, at melhenderson@cwi.edu.

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