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
- Increasing 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 has advocated 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. The time is right to keep the pressure and visibility pressing.
- 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 - 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. This appears to be a time of opportunity.
- 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 has to support better health care for Ontarians. Developing relationship with Ontario Health, Ontario’s new health system funder and supporting OTs to understand and be able to position their services within developing Ontario Health Teams will 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 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. 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 that is evidence based. So much effort has resulted in OT being recognized as a funded Core Service for children/youth with autism. Recognizing the significant workforce capacity shortage of OTs for this population, the new OAP Workforce Capacity Building Fund poses 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, meet the needs of children with different levels of need, and build capacity within a school to address the needs of all children. 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. 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 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 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.
- Advancing OT roles to partner with Emergency Health Services across the province. Community paramedic services are transforming to serve community-based long-term care and while they can bring the medical attention they are interested in the attention to occupational performance, home safety, falls prevention, etc. that OTs can bring to clients living at risk in their homes. This is a strategic time to explore and promote partnerships that can be funded by EMS services and/or the Ministry of Long-Term Care.
- 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 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.
- Developing and Implementing an Election 2022 Strategy
Ontario must host a provincial election on or before June 2, 2022. The opportunity to share OSOT’s key advocacy messages with candidates as they campaign can be an important way to get messages to party headquarters. Post election communications and relationship building is key with those MPPs and Ministers who are engaged in roles that relate to the world of OT.
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!