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Recreation Therapy students see lawmaking in action

In October, a handful of graduate students got a hands-on, behind-the-scenes look at how they can help a law get passed.

With a bill concerning recreational therapy making its way through Congress, five students in the master of science in recreation therapy program traveled to Washington D.C. with their course professor to meet with U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson. Representing the 5th Congressional District in Pennsylvania, he’s sponsoring House Bill 626, a bill that would direct Medicare to cover physician-prescribed recreational therapy services under what’s known as the “three-hour rule.”

This means that, if the bill passes, physicians can prescribe up to three hours a day, five days a week for recreational therapy if they believe that’s the best course of treatment for a patient. Recreational therapy was covered under this rule until 2010. H.R. 626 would make it more accessible to Medicare patients.  

The subject is certainly relevant to the students’ academic program, and it fits well with their special topics class this semester, which focuses in part on legislation. But the ties go deeper than that: Thompson worked as a recreational therapist for thirty years before entering public service, and he received his master of education from Temple in 1998.

However, the meeting was more than just a chance to see a Temple alumnus in action; it was an opportunity to explore advocacy and legislation firsthand.

“He gave us a lot of information on H.R. 626, and also gave us tips on how to advocate for it,” said Victoria DeFazio, one of the students. Advocacy for legislation, she explained, “is something we talk about a lot in the field, but not something you necessarily have the tools or skills to do.”

DeFazio, along with Katherine Marie Clauhs, Kristen McCrane, Paige Eddy, McKenzie Seaton and Alexis McKenney, a professor of rehabilitation sciences and therapeutic recreation program director, spent more than an hour with Thompson. The Congressman spoke about his career and transition into public service, but mostly discussed H.R. 626 and how private citizens can help get it passed.

The students were already aware of the impact the bill could have on their field but knew much less about how to take part in the legislative process. Thompson outlined strategies such as contacting their own legislators, rallying support among their colleagues and faculty members at Temple and contacting other medical professionals.

“I think he was able to see our passion for advocating for this, and he provided us with resources. We came in with basic knowledge, but he let us know how close they are to getting the bill passed,” said McCrane.

Already, the students drafted a letter to professors of undergraduate recreational therapy classes to speak about the bill during their classes. They’re also researching and reaching out to Congressional delegations in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey to stress the bill’s importance.

“This is a phenomenal opportunity to not just learn about advocacy, but also participate in it,” said McKenney. Along with tying in legislation and their field, the trip also provided perspective on how much one can accomplish with a Temple education.

“It’s great to see someone who has their master’s from Temple who’s now a congressman but is still advocating for his field,” said DeFazio. “He took that experience from Temple and applied it as a recreational therapist for thirty years, and now he’s applying it to being a congressman.”

Posted:  October 31, 2017