With the signature of Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Nov. 20, New York has become the 50th state to enact legislation requiring licensure for OTAs, according to a news release. The legislation passed both chambers of the New York General Assembly with bipartisan support.

OT_News-01“This is a landmark event for New York state occupational therapists,” Gloria Lucker, MS, OTR/L, FAOTA, BCP, president of the New York State Occupational Therapy Association, said in the release. “Finally, after 30 years, we have full recognition for occupational therapy assistants in our state. I am so proud of our occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants who worked so hard to make this happen. Having licensure for occupational therapy assistants will assure their full participation in the profession and will enhance practice standards as well as providing greater recognition by the community.”

According to the newly signed S. 1567-A sponsored by state Sen. Kenneth P. LaValle, R-1st District, the OTA licensure provisions will go into effect in May 2016. Existing law requires OTAs to meet certain requirements to become authorized to practice by the Department of Education. The bill repeals that provision and establishes licensure requirements for OTAs in statute that are consistent with existing requirements. The new law also changes the composition of the State Board of Occupational Therapy by requiring one member be a licensed OTA.

New York is the last state in the U.S. to require licensing for OTAs. Hawaii passed licensure legislation for OTs and OTAs in July 2014, becoming the 50th state to enact a licensure law for OTs and the 49th state to require licensure for OTAs, according to the release.

The American Occupational Therapy Association has been working alongside state occupational therapy associations and with state legislatures for more than 40 years to enact licensure laws across the U.S., according to the release. As a result, licensure laws for OTs and OTAs exist in 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

“We are very proud that New York will become the 50th and final state to enact state licensure for occupational therapy assistants,” Frederick P. Somers, AOTA CEO, said in the release. “State licensure for health professionals is essential in protecting the public from unqualified providers and in assuring the ongoing competence of practitioners. The new law will enhance regulation of the profession by including an occupational therapy assistant on the state’s occupation therapy regulatory board and will elevate practice standards for occupational therapy assistants in New York.”

Founded in 1917, the Bethesda, Md.-based AOTA represents the professional interests and concerns of more than 213,000 OTs, OTAs and students nationwide.