In the summer of 1999, I was a first-year graduate student at the University of Pittsburgh. I was eager to enter the field, and excited to take a course about professional issues in speech-language pathology.
During the course, I listened to several guest speakers talk about their experiences in the field. They spurred my interest in learning more about my future profession. They also spurred concern when they mentioned a law had been passed placing a Medicare cap on outpatient rehabilitation therapy services, including speech-language pathology services.
Many of the speakers talked about how this cap threatened jobs and services in their work settings. Fortunately, every year since 1999, Congress has passed an exceptions process that allows Medicare beneficiaries to receive medically necessary services beyond the cap. Now there is a bill before Congress to repeal the cap.
This is the time to act to repeal this cap: If the field is going to thrive, we have to be active. Professional advocacy and outreach is even in the ASHA Scope of Practice. It can no longer be an activity we engage in when we have extra time. We don’t have extra time, by the way! We have to actively engage in the process of advocacy to ensure a healthy future for our profession.
To help, I launched the SLP Advocacy project to give my students an opportunity (really an obligation) to advocate for the profession by writing blog posts about important issues, contacting legislators and contacting National Student Speech Language Hearing Association (NSSLHA) chapters from other universities to engage them in advocacy.
The project’s four-part mission includes:
- Increase awareness of legislative and public policy issues that may affect the profession of speech-language pathology.
- Provide mechanisms for professionals and the public to communicate with their legislators to support the profession. (This is also possible by following ASHA’s Take Action site and subscribing to the Headlines newsletter.)
- Improve consumer awareness of the profession of speech-language pathology.
- Provide a mechanism for professionals and consumers to network and collaborate on issues that affect the profession.
We invite other communications sciences and disorders students and professionals to share your stories of advocacy. What worked for you? What issues are important to you? Submit your idea or story and we will work with you to develop it and help you get the word out.
Craig Coleman, MA, CCC-SLP, BCS-F, is an assistant professor at Marshall University. Coleman is also an adjunct instructor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and co-director of the Stuttering U. summer program for children who stutter, their families and SLPs. He is coordinator of ASHA Special Interest Group 4, Fluency and Fluency Disorders. firstname.lastname@example.org.