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Federal Advocacy Forum 

2019 Scholarship Winners

In April 2019 the Academy of Neurologic Physical Therapy helped to fund 3 students and 2 neurologic resident members of the academy attend the APTA’s Federal Advocacy Forum in Washington D.C. These students and new professionals took time out of their busy schedules to apply for the scholarship and to go to D.C. and advocate for their patients, future patients and our profession. Below is what they learned from the experience, how it impacts us as neurologic physical therapists and what you can do to be an advocate like them!

The recipients of the Resident Scholarship:

  • William Merring, PT, DPT (Texas State University)
  • Alexander Au Dien, PT, DPT (LSU Medical Center)

The recipients of the DPT Student Scholarships:

  • Kyle Stapleton (Sacred Heart University)
  • Brigitta Hohl (Texas Woman's University-Houston)
  • Emiangeliz Gonzalez Luna (University of Central Florida)

 

Thoughts of an ANPT Doctor of Physical Therapy Student Scholarship Recipient 

By: Emiangeliz Gonzalez Luna, SPT (University of Central Florida)

I had the pleasure to attend APTA’s Federal Advocacy Forum 2019 in Washington DC. This experience opened my eyes on the behind-the-scenes work on legislative and advocacy effort that the APTA sponsors. I have always been nervous about joining on advocacy efforts since I do not consider myself the most politically-savvy. The support and content presented by the APTA teams made it easier to navigate the legislative systems and top APTA public policy priorities. As a DPT student, we are mostly stuck in the world of studying and practicals. The tunnel vision can restrict other aspects of the profession that are as equally important- policies that will affect our future patients and ourselves as professionals. Speaking to congress members and their aides as the experience of a student, many were surprised at the level of education and rigor of our training. To speak on what we can bring to the table in topics such as our roles in the management of the opioids epidemic providing rehabilitative services in community health centers allowed me to see that we need to have a seat at the table in order to spread the message for the betterment of our patients.

Neurologic injury can occur to anyone at any point in life, and one of the biggest concerns is the financial and healthcare burden that occurs after such a life-changing injury. In conditions such as traumatic brain injuries, costs can vary from $85,000-$3 million (https://www.brainandspinalcord.org/cost-traumatic-brain-injury/), with long term care going upwards between $600,000-$1,875,000. Along these costs, most patients are not able to return to work and access to healthcare can limit coverage to services, and many still have to deal with pain management. Many of these patients are left to fend on their own for their services, and community health centers are a resources they can use. Rehabilitative services are pivotal in increasing their quality of life and functional mobility in order to still be active in their lives and should be an addition to community health centers

Prior to FAF, I was not aware of these initiatives and what efforts they provide to our more vulnerable patients. Realizing this, if I don’t know; most of the general public probably does not know either. Diving into the advocacy efforts, one thing is for sure-  “if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”

 

Federal Advocacy Forum Reflection from Resident Scholarship Recipient

By: Alexander Au Dien, PT, DPT (LSU Medical Center)

Following my trip to the Federal Advocacy Forum as the ANPT resident scholarship recipient, I had time to evaluate my experience and realize the power that an individual offers. Speaking with congress members and their aides, we discussed policies that relate to physical therapists and ultimately to us as neurologic physical therapists. These discussions shed light on a very important fact: If others don’t know what you do, then they will assume. Moreover, whether their assumptions are good or bad, they will make choices that affect our profession.

As the ANPT positions itself to empower our members to optimize movement for those with neurologic diseases, we need to address multiple fronts, including management. Currently, the APTA’s larger priority is positioning our profession as an alternative to opioid prescriptions. Currently, there is an opioid epidemic that the department of Health and Human Services declared it a public health emergency in 2017[1]. This issue has led to over 130 people who die every day due to opioid-related drug overdoses. Neurologic patients are especially at risk as chronic pain can develop in 20-40% of patients with uncertainty or limited discussion of how to treat their issues [2]. One important conservative option that we all know is an important alternative is what we can offer through management of their movement and empower patients to maximize their capacity and independence.

The ANPT strives to advocate for our clinicians and patients, but it’s up to us to add to the collective voice. Let me be clear: If we don’t speak up, others will assume. They will assume what we do, they will assume what we can or cannot offer, and ultimately based on their assumptions may make decisions that directly affect us. It’s easy to think that someone else will manage it or because we know our benefit, but what I am telling you is that is not the case. We have to advocate for ourselves and for our patients, because if we don’t, no one else will.
References:
[1] https://www.hhs.gov/opioids/about-the-epidemic/index.html
[2] https://academic.oup.com/brain/article/135/2/320/262005

 

“Finding the Meaning in Federal Advocacy”

By: William Merring, PT, DPT, Neurologic Resident (Texas State University)

 

The 2019 Federal Advocacy Forum(FAF), was held from March 31st to April 1st in Washington. The first two days were spent educating students and professionals on the current topics regarding public policy, which has drastically changed since the removal of the medicare therapy cap during the 2018 session. The opioid crisis and rising student loan debts were two important topics that were discussed throughout forum, specifically regarding the addition of physical therapist to the National Health Service Corps (NHSC). The NHSC was created in the 1970s due to a health crisis as young physicians were specializing and older physicians were retiring, leaving many underserved areas throughout the country. In return for two years of service, these physicians were provided money towards their schooling debt as incentive to travel to these areas. Over the next thirty years, many different health providers including nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and mental health providers were added to the NHSC. While all of these great professions are an essential part of the healthcare system, currently there are no health care providers focused on rehabilitation.

The opioid crisis is a topic that most Americans are aware is crippling our country. The areas of the country that are most affected by this crisis are the same underserved areas that benefit most from the NHSC. According to research from the APTA, by 2025 there will be a shortage of nearly 25,000 physical therapists in this country1. This shortage harkens back to the original creation of the NHSC and is exactly why we as a profession need to push for our addition to the NHSC. Thanks to the #PTfirst and #choosePT 2 campaigns, the APTA and physical therapists all over the country are working to educate the public on our role as movement experts to help those dealing with chronic pain versus developing a reliance on opioids. On the final day of the FAF as we finalized our talking points to speak with members of the congress and senate, we learned that bipartisan bill S.790 was introduced by Sen. Jon Tester [D-MT] Sen. Rodger Wicker [R-MS] and Sen. Angus Kind [I-ME]3. This bill amends the current NHSC to allow physical therapists as primary care providers and thus incentivised to travel to areas of the country in need of movement experts to provide long lasting care for those suffering from the opioid crisis. In the following months, the APTA will be following this bill and similar legislation in the house in hopes of including us in the fight against the opioid crisis. 

References:
(1). APTA. http://apta.org/WorkforceData/
(2). https://www.apta.org/PTinMotion/News/2016/6/7/ChoosePTCampaignLaunch/
(3) https://www.apta.org/PTinMotion/News/2019/4/5/HealthServicesBillIntroduced/

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