Pennsylvania Amends Occupational Therapy Practice Act
On July 5, 2012 the Governor approved amendments to Pennsylvania’s Occupational Therapy Practice Act (“Act”). Notable changes to the Act include required professional liability insurance for occupational therapists, the ability of certified registered nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants to refer patients for occupational therapy, and creation of an impaired professional program.
The amendments to the Act arise from passage of Senate Bill 1528. The amendments to the Act affect requirements for licensure, practice and referral, and impaired professionals.
Requirements for Licensure
The Act has been amended to require that occupational therapists carry individual professional liability insurance with $1 million dollars in policy limits. The legislature imposed a similar requirement on nurse practitioners and physician assistants in the not-too-distant past.
The amendments to the Act require that occupational therapists have an individual policy in place beginning with the renewal of their biennial license after September 5, 2012. In the event the therapist does not obtain a policy, he or she must notify the State Board of Occupational Therapy and suffer automatic suspension of his or her license.
Practice and Referral
The amendments also expand the ability of an occupational therapist to provide treatment to patients. Specifically, the amendments permit occupational therapists to become involved in an individual’s care upon referral of a certified registered nurse practitioner or physician assistant. This represents an expansion of the professionals who may refer individuals to an occupational therapist; under prior law, a physician order was necessary.
The amendments to Act also create an impaired professional program. Notably, this program imposes obligations on hospitals, health care facilities, peers, and colleagues who have substantial evidence that a therapist is impaired. Under the amendments, these groups have an obligation to report drug diversion or mental or physical incompetency to the State Board of Occupational Therapy.
Failing to report may result in a fine on an individual or facility. Good faith reports based on substantial evidence of impairment, however, are immune from civil and criminal liability under the amendments.