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. We believe occupational therapy has much to offer in solutions-focused, evidence-based, and client-focused interventions and services!
OSOT's Current Advocacy Priorities
- Increasing access to OT Services in Ontario's Long-Term Care Homes: OT services have been severely restricted in recent years as the LTCH staffing crisis continues. OSOT advocates 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 and the Ministry of Long-Term Care’s staffing study recommendations include increasing access to allied health services a recommendation underlined by the LTCH COVID-19 Commission.
- 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 positioned to bring their expertise to the priorities of the new strategy through structured psychotherapy, child and youth mental health services, homelessness, corrections, and 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 occupational therapy services across the continuum of new integrated care models (Ontario Health Teams): OSOT has long advocated for a more integrated health system and now promotes the many opportunities the profession has to support better health care for Ontarians. Developing relationship with Ontario Health and supporting OTs to understand and be able to position their services within developing Ontario Health Teams will continue to be an important priority in the year ahead.
- 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 focused on enabling skills and participation at a time with increasing pressure to support early discharges from hospital and supporting people living with multiple chronic condition to manage well in their homes. Further, today’s home care sector has significant human resource challenges for OT. Significant vacancy rates, recruitment challenges and low morale within the sector is now challenging providers’ abilities to service need. There is a critical need to elevate the challenges in the sector and the need to address issues relating to equitable compensation (to other sectors), dependable visit volumes, payment for indirect client care time, etc.
- 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 its 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 continues to roll out, we see growth opportunities for occupational therapy practice through recognition as a funded Core Service for children/youth with autism. OSOT has partnered with Holland Bloorview through an OAP Workforce Capacity Building Fund creating opportunity for funded projects to support capacity building within the profession to address this population's needs.
- Advocating for the services of occupational therapists in the school system: OSOT continues to advocate for increased access to OT services to meet the unmet needs of students served by the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services School-Based Rehabilitation Services program. Tiered service delivery models (for which OTs have generated good evidence) provide a means through which OTs can work more collaboratively with other school staff and to meet the needs of all children. As mental health needs of students have been identified as a high priority, OSOT is promoting occupational therapists' roles in child/youth mental health. OSOT will continue to promote OT as a mental health professional to the Ministry of Education, School Mental Health Ontario, and school boards across the province.
- Addressing emerging issues in Ontario's auto insurance system to promote access to OT services: 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 as 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 and is an active collaborator as a member of the Coalition of Health Professions in Auto Insurance to identify and address issues of common concern to health providers in the sector.
- 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. The new En-AGE portal provides a forum for sharing OT interventions and evidence. Advocating and positioning our services to retirement homes across the province, to Seniors Active Living Centres, and to the older adult public will continue to be an advocacy and promotion focus.
How does OSOT address its Advocacy Agenda?
The Society has committed to allocate 10% of every member's fee to support specific government relations activities. The Society has shifted away from a government relations consultant to an in-house, full-time Government Relations staff position. With this we are able to devote more resources to advocacy initiatives through strategic guidance, supports to access government officials and bureaucrats, and to keep occupational therapy on the minds of key decision-makers through advocacy activities such a submissions, government relations meetings, and member consultation.
OSOT Teams are critical to our successful advocacy by bring to our submissions, responses, and 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 are often short-term opportunities to provide impactful contributions to advancing OT in Ontario.
Member comments and input are encouraged!