Last month, in May, the Allied Health Workforce Diversity Act was introduced to both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Ensuring the makeup of health care reflects that of the population, this bill will help to increase the diversity of the occupational therapy workforce. Today, there is an increasing need for healthcare providers. The passing of this bill will help by providing $8 million per year to be made available to accredited education programs in physical therapy, occupational therapy, audiology, respiratory therapy, and speech-language pathology to increase program diversity.

If passed into law, grant funding will be provided for use by accredited PT and PTA education programs for community outreach, mentorship, scholarships, and stipends. These programs are aimed at increasing the number of students from underrepresented populations, including those from racial or ethnic minority populations, with disabilities, and from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds. This legislation creates a program administered by the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) and funding to ensure the flexibility to adapt to changes to groups that are underrepresented, in order to grow with a changing health workforce.

The proposed grant program will allow higher education programs to strengthen and expand the use of evidence-based strategies such as community outreach, expansion of mentorship and tutoring programs, and the provision of scholarships and stipends. These strategies will be used to increase the recruitment, enrollment, retention, and graduation of students from underrepresented and disadvantaged backgrounds.

The passing of this bill is important for the Physical Therapy industry because it provides opportunities for more people to fill needed roles. A similar bill made it through the House of Representatives in 2019, but was held in Senate, never being passed. This is our chance to support, once again, an industry-changing bill. The increased diversity will lead to improved care access, increased patient choice and satisfaction, and most importantly, a better education experience for health profession students.

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