2019 APTA Federal Advocacy Forum – “Day on the Hill”

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Colorado members at the Forum representing and advocating for the #ChoosePT campaign.

Last week,  the APTA Federal Forum in Washington D.C. took place to advocate for important topics to physical therapists. The Forum brought together APTA members, speakers from the field, and stakeholders on the discussion of regulatory affairs and federal priorities that impact the physical therapy profession and its patients, as well as on learning about new information that comes with a new Congress. Attendees had the opportunity to speak with their representatives in person about issues facing their state and the profession as a whole. Among those in attendance were our very own Regis DPT students and faculty members. Second-year DPT student Hannah Clark reflects on her experience on the Hill and why it is crucial to not only advocate for our profession, but to be involved as a student, in her following essay:

“Issues Discussed at the Capital”

Hannah Clark, SPT – Regis University

To fundamentally agree with the policy positions held by the APTA is an exceptional feeling. As a DPT student who is hoping to delve headfirst into pain management and advocacy for marginalized communities in healthcare upon graduation, my decision to pursue this profession has been deeply validated by attending the Federal Advocacy Forum (FAF). Witnessing leaders within the APTA address topics related to population health, patient choice and access, value-based care and practice, and research and innovation helped me to fully recognize the crucial role the APTA has in influencing the policies that impact our ability to serve society. For these reasons, it felt important for me to join the GAC team advocating at the capital and I was deeply honored to be selected.

Due to the recent success regarding the removal of the Medicare cap, we were able to spend more time becoming educated and advocating for the field of physical therapy in a broader sense. On Monday, we spent the entire day learning about the current political climate in congress from Nation Gonzalez at CNN, the societal impact of healthcare policy from Sarah Kliff at Vox, and attended breakout sessions that detailed information regarding federal policy, payment, the ACA, Medicaid, and IDEA. One of the most emphasized topics throughout the day involved the #ChoosePT campaign. The APTA reminded those attending the FAF of the real impact physical therapists can have on the opioid epidemic through offering vulnerable populations access to non-pharmacological pain management. Clear objectives were presented that tackled this issue in addition to intra-professional issues such as student loan repayment. Several policy priorities were presented for every state to choose from when planning their congressional meetings.

The following topics were addressed by the Colorado GAC team when meeting with legislative assistants:

  • Our geriatric specialists spoke to the vital role in we play in exercise promotion and fall risk reduction in the community. Conversations were also had in the valuable perspective physical therapists can bring to park and recreational center design.
  • Our pediatric specialists asked congresspeople to consider expanding the budget for IDEA as they have witnessed the impact this program has on the lives of children.
  • Our outpatient clinicians provided examples of how they have successfully treated patients experiencing chronic pain and assisted them in weaning off opioids. These individuals also spoke to the measurable reduction in opioid use they have made in their local hospital system by implementing early access to physical therapy services.
  • Our students asked our congresspeople to cosponsor SB970 (and eventually the same bill when it is brought to the house) that would add physical therapists to the National Health Service Corps. This would allow graduates to serve rural populations, often most impacted by opioid addiction, and would offer student loan repayment as an incentive.
  • Our long-time advocates requested that physical therapists be added as community health center providers, as we are a vital element of the primary care team.

In addition to the invaluable time spent at the FAF learning about how physical therapists can impact healthcare quality and access in the U.S., one of the most important aspects of the weekend for my professional growth was getting to know the GAC members I accompanied. The people I spent time with exemplified everything I love and respect about our profession. They spoke with genuine care for their patients, integrity in leadership opportunities, intelligence in considering the complexity of pain, passion for their interventions, and commitment to social responsibility. Our conversations had a large impact on my personal development.

I returned to class following the Federal Advocacy Forum with a fresh perspective. I felt focused and calm as I approached coursework and simulation labs. Attending FAF granted me the opportunity to further shape who I aspire to be as a professional and world citizen. I am beyond grateful for this opportunity and truly believe that if any student were to have the chance to participate in this event, they would foster a deeper appreciation for the APTA and for healthcare advocacy at large.

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Hannah (pictured second from right) was all smiles with fellow members of the Forum at the 2019 APTA Federal Forum in Washington D.C. 

April Recap: National Advocacy Dinner

Name: Grace-Marie Vega, Class of 2019
Undergrad: Arizona State University
Hometown: Placentia, California
Fun Fact: One time, I drove a fire truck.

image1.JPGIf you were there on April 12, 2017, you hardly need me to recount the evening to you, but if you were not, here’s what you missed at this year’s Denver National Advocacy Dinner. First, allow me to set the scene. Room 210 of Claver hall, around dusk. As you walk into the room, you are immediately impressed by the free pizza AND La Croix. You look around and realize you are in the company of well-dressed professionals, esteemed professors, and the most promising physical therapy students in all of North America. You are here partially to avoid yet another night of diligent and thorough studying, but in a truer, more important sense, to get a handle on professional advocacy and how you as a student can become involved.

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The evening opened with an introduction from Dr. Ira Gorman. “Politics: you can’t ignore it, because it won’t ignore you!” And of course, he is right. Advocacy is inherently and perhaps lamentably inextricable from policy. Dr. Gorman went on to explain that in physical therapy, advocacy happens on different levels: at the level of the patient, the professional, the professional organization, and the healthcare environment as a whole. All of these levels are effected by legislation, and legislation can be effected by you. Dr. Gorman outlined political advocacy in a sequence of steps to follow.

First, you must arm yourself with knowledge. This can mean simply being aware of your professional organization, local government officials, and media you can utilize or connect with. The next step is research. This involves investigation of the issue you’re interested in, typically in the form of reading into the specifics and history of proposed legislation, and knowing a little about allies and opponents of that legislation. Then comes implementation. This means taking political action, possibly in the form of writing letters to or visiting elected officials, getting patient testimony, or connecting with legislative staff. The last step is reflection. Ultimately, healthcare reform will not happen by itself. It is up to you to be part of the creation of a system that best serves you and your patients. Your vote and your participation in democracy absolutely matters.

After Dr. Gorman’s talk, Dr. Hope Yasbin, Federal Affairs Liaison for the Colorado chapter of the APTA, talked to us about her own experiences in advocacy. Dr. Yasmin gave us the run down on a few of the biggest issues currently effecting our profession, including:

  • Repeal of the Medicare Therapy Cap: an arbitrary dollar amount limiting outpatient physical therapy and speech therapy coverage.
  • The PT Workforce Bill: which would incentivize PTs to build careers in underserved areas by offering loan forgiveness.
  • The SAFE PLAY Act: which sets up school districts with concussion education for young athletes.
  • The #ChoosePT campaign: an initiative to combat the prescription opioid epidemic.

If you would like more information on any of these topics, you might consider checking out the APTA action center webpage, and downloading the APTA Action app.

Following Dr. Yasmin was Regis’ own Ryan Tollis, a second year student and government affairs committee member. Ryan was chosen to attend this year’s Federal Advocacy Forum, a 2-day adventure/visit to Washington DC during which students, physical therapists, and lobbyists represent our profession and meet with elected officials. By Ryan’s account, it was a whirlwind of networking, briefing, and nonstop political action. Attending events like this is an awesome way to get involved, but there are other ways too.  You can:

To wrap up what was, by all accounts, a thoroughly informative and enjoyable evening, Dr. Cameron MacDonald reminded us that advocacy that best serves the public is when professionals in every field are practicing at the top of their scope. It is our right and duty to be bold in the development of our profession, and to take ownership of the skills we work hard to learn in order to offer the best service we can to our patients. In summation, physical therapy has grown to be what it is today due to the efforts of our professional organization, and the advocacy of many therapists before us. The future of our profession will depend on the work we do to advance it.

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By the end of the evening, you are very satisfied with the food (obviously), but even more so with yourself, for leaving as a more informed person than you were when you arrived. You tell yourself you will definitely be coming back next year, and you will be bringing all your friends.

Thanks to everyone who attended!

Special thanks to:

Speakers: Dr. Ira Gorman, Dr. Cameron MacDonald, and Dr. Hope Yasbin

Coordinators: Carol Passarelli and Ryan Tollis

Team: Kiki Anderton, Brianna Henggeler, Rachel Maass, Katie Ragle, Grace-Marie Vega

Funding: Dave Law and the Graduate Student Council, Dr. Mark Reinking and the Regis School of Physical Therapy

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APTA Tuesday: Meet Katie Baratta

Meet Katie Baratta, new Regis DPT graduate! Katie participated in an American Physical Therapy Association internship in Washington, D.C. during her final year at Regis.  Check in every Tuesday this summer to hear about her experience and to learn more about the legislation and politics behind all things physical therapy.

Name: Katherine “Katie” Baratta

Undergrad: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Hometown: Boston/Belmont, MA

Fun Fact: I worked for 5 years as a transportation engineering consultant and am the second of six kids!

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Where did you do your last two clinicals?

CE III at St Joseph’s hospital in Denver, acute care, ICU, cardiac care, and CF floors.

CE IV at Denver VA primarily outpatient ortho with emphasis on manual therapy

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How did you get interested in advocacy and how has Regis furthered your interests?

I applied for the APTA internship for two reasons: one relating to learning to better serve patients I will serve as a Doctor of Physical Therapy, and the second pertaining to learning more about the role of Physical Therapy as a profession in the state in which I will practice.

In regards to my future patients, I foresee myself working a significant percentage of my caseload with patients who have considerable needs, vulnerabilities, and/or economic disadvantages—that is what motivates me to put 100% effort into what I’m doing. I know I’ll do everything within my power to provide the best care I possibly can for these patients. However, I also know that there are greater systemic forces at play which can limit any effort I make as an individual practitioner. In order to address these larger issues, I have a duty to advocate as a healthcare professional. Prior to the APTA internship, I didn’t possess a solid understanding of the ways the APTA, as an organization, interfaces with the government and how the political process can be a tool for large-scale change in the healthcare arena. This internship allowed me to observe and participate in this process. It gave me a more nuanced understanding of politics: I now both understand politics in terms of government and politics in terms of group and power dynamics and how these social factors relate to getting things accomplished. So now, as a new graduate, I can bring this understanding back to my individual patients as I push for large-scale changes in the realm of availability of care, funding, and specific physical therapy services.

The second reason I was interested in this internship had to do with the role of the APTA in Massachusetts. According to the APTA state rankings, my home state (and where I eventually see myself practicing) ranked last in APTA involvement in 2014. This is an area of opportunity for the profession. Massachusetts (and Boston) is a leader in many aspects of healthcare. I saw the APTA internship as preparation for increasing the presence of the APTA and the profession of physical therapy in Massachusetts.

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Where are you heading with your career?

My path thus far in life has been winding and full of surprises, and I am sure my future will be as well!

I tremendously enjoyed my work during CE IV at the VA. I found a group of people I connected well with—both the patient population and the rehab team, overall. It was my first true manual/outpatient rotation. By the end of it, I really felt I was starting to get the hang of how to integrate manual skills with tailored exercise prescription for a patient’s short- and long-term function.

I find the role of the nervous system in pain—particularly persistent pain—to be fascinating, and I think that it’s an area that we as DPTs can serve, push the envelope, and dig deeper into understanding.  I see the solution to be very intertwined with integrating exercise, mental and emotional health, and our toolbox of manual skills.

Beyond the practice setting, I envision myself tying in some of the skills I developed in my prior career. I have an extensive background in data analysis, grant writing, and drafting reports on alternatives analysis; essentially, I have experience in demonstrating the “value” of something to decision-makers (including those who provide funding).

One of PT’s biggest issues is lack of PR. Nobody understands or sees our value. Word of mouth is clearly some of the greatest PR, particularly when attracting new patients to an outpatient clinic. But, when there are larger factors at play beyond an individual patient’s choice—when it comes down to hospital policy or insurance policy—we need to speak in the language that those controlling funding allocation understand: numbers (particularly numbers with dollar signs in front of them!).

So, I see utilizing the skills I’ve developed in my past career into my current practice and will be able to demonstrate the value of physical therapy for both patient outcomes and overall costs. There’s a tremendous need for widespread change to healthcare and to PT access and I am excited to be a part of that change!

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Tune in next week to read Katie’s take on direct access barriers and initiatives to direct access.