Hawaii is now the 50th state to license occupational therapists (OTs) and the 49th state to license occupational therapy assistants (OTAs), according to a news release issued by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). The release notes that Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie (D) signed the legislation on July 2. The legislation passed both chambers of the Hawaii General Assembly with bipartisan support.
Avis Sakata, OTR, CAPS, president of the Occupational Therapy Association of Hawaii, designates the enacted legislation as a “great victory” not only for occupational therapy practitioners, but also consumers of occupational therapy services.
“I am proud of the purely grassroots efforts led by our membership, and with the support of key legislators and representatives from the state’s Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA), we were able to attain licensure,” Sakata says in the release.
The SB 2472 legislation states that practitioners in Hawaii will be licensed under the Occupational Therapy Program with the DCCA. The release notes that under the law beginning with the December 31, 2014, renewal period, each active occupational therapist registration will be converted to an occupational therapy license. The occupational therapy assistant licensure provisions will take effect January 1, 2017, to allow time for rules to be transmitted and for occupational therapy assistants to meet new practice requirements.
The release states that the AOTA has been working alongside state occupational therapy associations and state legislators for more than 40 years to enact licensure laws nationwide. Its efforts have translated into licensure laws for occupational therapists in 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Additionally, occupational therapy assistant licensure laws are now on the books in 49 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. According to the release, New York is the only state that does not currently have a licensure law for occupational therapy assistants, yet the release points out the New York State Occupational Therapy Association is continuing to pursue licensure legislation.
Josh Veverka, State Policy Analyst, AOTA, adds that the enactment of the law is a “momentous” achievement for the profession and a great advancement for Hawaii-based occupational therapy consumers.
“The new law will enhance regulation of the profession and will elevate practice standards in the state. Full licensure protects consumers by ensuring occupational therapy practitioners are qualified to perform the full range of services.” Veverka says.
The Hawaii law, the release reports, also adopts contemporary scope of practice language to ensure that consumers have access to the full range of occupational therapy interventions designed to allow them to participate in activities of daily life. Additionally, the establishment of the Occupational Therapy Advisory Committee, comprised of practicing occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants to help with the implementation of the law, is also intended to enhance consumer protection.