On the heels of its unanimous passage in the US House of Representatives recently as part of the Educating Medical Professionals and Optimizing Workforce Efficiency and Readiness (EMPOWER) for Health Act of 2019 (HR 2781), the Allied Health Workforce Diversity Act (HR 3637) was introduced in the Senate as S 2747 soon afterward.

The bill was introduced in the Senate by Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) and Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). As with the House version, the intention of the Senate’s companion bill is to create legislation to provide grants to increase opportunities for individuals who are from underrepresented backgrounds, including students from racial and ethnic minorities, in the professions of occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech-language pathology, and audiology.

In July, US Representatives Bobby L. Rush (D-IL) and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) introduced HR 3637 in the House of Representatives. It was added to HR 2781 soon after introduction, the American Occupational Therapy Association notes in a news release.

“AOTA is grateful for the numerous supporters of this bill and their shared commitment to a more diverse workforce, especially Representatives Rush and McMorris Rodgers, and Senators Casey and Murkowski,” says Wendy C. Hildenbrand, PhD, MPH, OTR/L, FAOTA, President of AOTA, in the release.

“As our nation grows in diversity, so should our occupational therapy workforce in order to maximize the potential of each and every client we serve.”

If passed, the legislation would create a grant program to recruit a more diverse body of professionals in the allied health fields, including occupational therapy.

“Having a diverse, abundant and well-trained health care workforce is essential to improving quality of care,” Senator Casey states. “In order to ensure our health care delivery system is successful, we must make allied health training programs as successful as possible. A characteristic of a successful program is a diverse student body. This is why I am proud to co-sponsor this legislation which will work towards creating a truly diverse field of allied health professionals.”

Senator Murkowski echoed his statement.

“As the nation struggles with health care provider shortages, perhaps no one feels that more than rural areas such as Alaska. Across our state, our communities could benefit from a more robust workforce, particularly in fields such as occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech language pathology, and audiology,” she comments in the release.

“I’ve been working hard to move legislation that will improve the quality and availability of health care, including bills to improve recruitment and retention of health care professionals. Building on those efforts, I’m proud to lead this bill that will afford more Alaskans a greater opportunity to pursue these valuable careers and to bring that knowledge back to their communities.”

[Source: AOTA]