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Therapeutic recreation students take their hopes for their profession to the Statehouse

While many students are content with only worrying about graduation and finding their first job, six current Indiana University Bloomington students want to ensure their professional future is secure for years to come.

The therapeutic recreation majors joined IU faculty and members of the state organization Recreational Therapists of Indiana this year to meet with state legislators about current issues in state policies regarding their field of practice.

Hook and Cornett image

Brittany Hook and Annie Cornett

Print-Quality Photo

Similar to past years, the group met with state representatives and senators to discuss adding therapeutic recreation services to the aged and disabled waiver under the Medicaid program. The addition would enable Medicaid recipients to choose recreation therapy services from the list of services funded by the government health-care program.

Annie Cornett, an IU Bloomington senior, decided to participate for the first time this year. She said she wanted to have a better understanding of the current political issues recreational therapists face before she entered the field.

"It's a great opportunity for students to meet with other recreational therapists from across the state and to discuss the issues that will affect our profession years after we graduate," she said. "If issues like licensure resurface in the future, I want to ensure I'm well informed on all sides of the debate."

IU Bloomington offers a bachelor's degree in therapeutic recreation through the Department of Recreation, Park and Tourism Studies in the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation.

The group first secured an audience with the office of Sen. Vi Simpson of Bloomington. Members determined that supplying information regarding other states that cover therapeutic recreation services under the aged and disabled waiver would be an influential way to propose the addition.

Students said the most promising news of the day came in a meeting with Rep. Peggy Welch of Bloomington, who suggested that licensing of recreational therapists might provide the greatest opportunity for therapeutic recreation services to be covered by Medicaid. In the past, they said, recreational therapists had been discouraged from pursuing licensing.

In early March, Welch said that many Indiana lawmakers are reluctant to add more state licensing requirements. She added that Medicaid funding is finite, and many professionals and patient advocates are competing to have services covered. But Welch commended the IU students and their supporters for working on the issue, encouraging them to provide more information and arguments for the 2010 session.

Brittany Hook, a senior at Indiana University, was extremely excited about the possibility of licensure in the state of Indiana for the first time.

"Licensure has always been a hot topic related to our field," she said. "To be a student and be at the meeting where such big steps towards licensure were being discussed was an awesome experience. It has definitely been one of the highlights of my senior year and I'm excited to see what will happen with this issue."