OSOT Advocating on behalf of Ontario Occupational Therapists!
The Ontario Society of Occupational Therapists works on behalf of its members to position occupational therapy and occupational therapists in Ontario’s ever evolving health care system in order to enable access to occupational therapy services for those with need.
OSOT’s advocacy agenda is guided by the Society's Strategic Plan which identifies key priorities of the membership for proactive promotion and advocacy initiatives. OSOT's current Strategic Plan is focused on Advancing Occupational Therapy in Ontario and gives strategic direction to focus on promoting access to comprehensive occupational therapy services for patients/clients and families. This drives a commitment to address emerging policy and practice issues affecting access to OT services in Ontario.
The issues listed below identify key policy and practice foci that presently drive OSOT’s advocacy agenda. Many of these issues are inter-related and are consistent to health system priorities in the province. At a time when health system transformation is impending, we believe occupational therapy has much to offer in solutions-focused, evidence-based and client-focused interventions and services!
OSOT's Current Advocacy Priorities
- Restoring access to OT Services in Ontario's Long-Term Care Homes - OT services have been severely restricted in recent years as the LTC Home staffing crisis has emerged. OSOT is current advocating for a minimum 21 hours/week of OT services for a LTC Home of approximately 200 beds. We have been successful in securing funding policy changes that enable increased funding allocation to OT, however, provincial commitments to staffing reviews have delayed change. The Society has been active in presenting to the LTC Homes Staffing Review.
- Positioning occupational therapy as an essential mental health professional to support Ontario's new Mental Health and Addictions Strategy. As federal and provincial funding has prioritized mental health services OTs are well positionned to bring their expertise to the priorities of the new strategy - structured psychotherapy, child and youth mental health services, homelessness, corrections, first responders and PTSD. OSOT has worked to establish a good relationship with the Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions who recognizes the value of occupational therapy.
- Engaging in Ontario's health system transformation agenda to ensure that the value of occupational therapy services across the continuum of new integrated care models (Ontario Health Teams) is promoted and recognized. OSOT has long advocated for a more integrated health system and is now promoting the many opportunities the profession sees these new models (OHTs and bundled care) can have for OTs.
- Positioning occupational therapy within the home and community care modernization strategy. As a component of health system transformation, the Ministry of Health is addressing new strategies for home and community care to enable more integrated services within Ontario Health Teams. Occupational therapists have much to add to community based services targeted to support Ontarians to manage their health and functional needs at home, preventing ER and hospital admissions and delaying long-term care admissions as long as possible. OSOT has long advocated for a home and community care sector that is more focused on enabling skills and participation than providing care. The current review provides opportunity to advance this messaging when there is an increasing pressure to support early discharges from hospital and supporting people living with multiple chronic condition to manage well in their homes.
- Supporting implementation of Ontario's new Ontario Autism Program and promoting the services of occupational therapists (now publicly funded) for children, youth and families living with autism. OSOT continues it's presence at the provincial leadership tables for this program, having been represented at the Provincial OAP Advisory Panel, the Society is now represented on the OAP Implementation Working Group which is charged with advancing the recommendations of the Advisory Panel for a comprehensive needs-based program. As the program roles out we see growth opportunities for occupational therapy practice that is evidence based.
- Advocating for the services of occupational therapists in the school system. The COVID-19 pandemic has created significant barriers to the provision of school-based services and ensuring that the needs of children and youth with needs for OT are well served is critical. As mental health needs of students have been identified a high priority, OSOT is promoting occupational therapists' roles in child/youth mental health. The Society will consult with the Ministry of Education as school re-opening plans emerge.
- Addressing emerging issues in Ontario's auto insurance system to promote access to OT services and assure an OT voice is heard at Ministry reform discussions. Prior to the pandemic, the Ministry of Finance was proceeding with review of the province's auto insurance system, including the provision of medical and rehabilitation benefits. OSOT has been in frequent contact with the Ministry, at various consultation tables and when work resumes will continue to advocate for a system that fairly, equitably and transparently supports access to necessary services and benefits for claimants, including occupational therapy services. OSOT is also represented at the FSRA Superintendent's Advisory Table to bring the profession's experience and insights from the sector to the regulator.
- Promoting occupational therapists as leaders in seniors health and well-being. The Society has long taken the position that occupational therapists should be leaders in seniors health and well-being, as the natural transition of aging create occupational challenges. Occupational therapists have so much to offer. The Society is currently working in partnership with AGE-WELL on a project entitled En-AGE (enabling ageing, growth and engagement) which aims to develop a web-based knowledge transfer resource (website) that effectively promotes occupational therapy as an important resource to older adults, their families and caregivers.
How does OSOT address its Advocacy Agenda?
The Society has committed to allocate 10% of every members' fee to support specific government relations activities. This has allowed the Society to engage a government relations consultant who provides strategic guidance, supports access to government officials and bureaucrats key to our primary issues.
In addition, OSOT staff support advocacy activities such a submissions, government relations meetings and member consultation. OSOT Teams are critical to our successful advocacy for members bring to our submissions, responses, advocacy messaging the clinical experience, knowledge, evidence and insights from the field that are so critical to relay. Member inputs are sought on many issues and members are encouraged to respond to calls for reviewers, task forces, etc. These can be short -term opportunities to provide impactful contributions to advancing OT in Ontario.
Member comments and input are encouraged!