It’s been very busy for all of us involved in the battle that has come to Florida regarding the dry needling issue. The Florida Society for Doctors of Oriental Medicine (The Society), along with other organizations, and our lobbyists met many times in the past several months to formulate our plan of action to win this battle.
Last summer, the Physical Therapists’ (PT) association tried to get the Board of Physical Therapy to make a rule to allow dry needling. Their statue doesn’t allow for this, so they denied the request stating that they needed legislative authority to achieve this modality in board rule. They told the PT association to go to the legislature for this right. That is exactly what they have done. The national PT association proceeded to work with the FL PT association to get a bill through the legislature this year.
Initially, they asked the acupuncture profession to approve minimal hours of training and the right to do dry needling as part of their bill. The Society said there is no way we are even going to engage in the conversation unless they were willing to require FS 457 requirements, and the Florida Acupuncture Association (FAA) agreed with the Society’s position.
During committee weeks in January and February, bill language was written and discussed. Although dry needling wasn’t specifically mentioned, the broad and vague language would give the PT board great authority to create a plethora of rules, and we believe they would include dry needling.
An amendment mentioning “a filiform needle” as a prohibition under the definition of manual therapy was inserted into the bill, with the hope it would satisfy our profession. Some felt it was sufficient, but when the Society’s and FAA’s legislative experts evaluated it, it was determined that it was weak at best, and did nothing to protect our profession. We then submitted language that would protect us from the possible manipulation of legal terms, and to date, this necessary language has not been included in the bill. We are not willing to compromise on what is necessary. So we are still where we were on day one: Kill the Bill.
This whole process hasn’t been easy, but since we put a plan together early, we are confident this year’s battle can be won.
However, it’s going to take the continued help of everyone to accomplish our goals. For the past 22 years I’ve been involved in the acupuncture and Oriental Medicine profession in Florida, and what I have come to realize it that the whole profession has relied on only a few to represent them to the legislature.
This is a very dangerous position to be in as a profession. Currently, if one of the “few” who are active had a family emergency or accident, and could no longer be active, where would that leave the profession? We came very close to this actually happening. This past December, while on a long weekend cruise to Cozumel, Jerry, my husband, and I went on a Harley Davidson motorcycle tour of the island, and we had an accident. We both few off the Harley Davidson Road King bike we were on and he broke both his tibia and fibula in his right leg. After 3 hours of surgery, 2 plates, 8 screws and 5 days in the hospital in Cozumel, we arrived home the week of Christmas. The Lord sent an angel to buffer my fall - even though we both flew off the bike (on a turn, we weren’t going fast at all – no one really understands how it happened) my only injuries were bangs and bruises. They were irrelevant compared to Jerry’s injuries, so I have been able to maintain my clinic, and stay involved in this political battle.
I’m grateful to the Society’s partners and members who stepped up and helped me in the first two months after we returned – so we were able to continue the work on our legislative battle. But what concerns me the most about this situation is our profession’s fragile position. There isn’t enough volunteer or financial participation to really make the impact we need to be making both politically and with public relations. All of that takes money. We have enough licensees, but only a very, very small percentage does the minimum by maintaining membership, and even fewer actually show up to do something, like visit a legislator. What is your profession worth to you? Is $50 a month too much to contribute to a profession that allows us to practice as primary care providers? Some think that the license fees paid every other year are for supporting the profession, but they only go to regulating the practice and protecting the public; they do nothing for protecting our practice act and profession.
Without strong and assertive association representation, our profession is unprotected. Wolves and vultures could swoop in and take and destroy. We’ve been watching this for several years nation-wide as the PTs have slowly and methodically stolen the practice of acupuncture under the guise of dry needling, and decided to rewrite world history by claiming they invented it with no credit to the Chinese and Asian cultures that developed our beloved practice of medicine in the first place. Now the PTs have come to Florida and are trying to expand their scope of practice. We are opposed to this initiative; the provisions of the bill are too broad and vague, which could allow for broad interpretation by the board of physical therapy. This past summer, they made their intentions clear that they would create a rule if they had the statutory authority, and could care less about our input.
In early December, I attended meetings in Tallahassee and Clearwater on behalf of the acupuncture profession in Florida. Ramon Maury, our lobbyist, set up appointments and I had the opportunity to meet with leaders at the Florida Medical Association headquarters in Tallahassee, as well as staff analysts in the House of Representatives, and the Senate, and leadership from the Senate Presidents office. Some of the staff and legislators I had the opportunity to meet with remembered my visits from last year and prior years, so it was like seeing an old friend, and we were well received. They understood our position and we were told this is considered a “scope” battle, so both sides will be considered by the legislature.
Throughout January and February, there were many meetings regarding the PT bill that was getting ready for the legislature to vote on. The Legislative session officially started the first week of March. During the first 5 weeks, bills that are being considered must pass multiple committees in the House and the Senate. Once a bill passes these the committees, then it can be heard on the floor of the House and the Senate and put to a vote. During this process, many changes could be made, and this must be watched very closely. Last minute amendments are not unusual, and this is where dangerous language can be inserted. Constant attention is vital to make sure we are not damaged as a profession.
I am so grateful for the support from the Society’s members, AP warriors, and those that have made donations – you help keep us at the table during the legislative process.
Unfortunately, only a small percentage of you have stepped up to help me with this political initiative. In fact, only half of you, who said you would contribute, actually did send a check or make a payment online. To those of you that fulfilled your commitment, and continue to make monthly payments…
Thank You! We couldn’t do it without you.
To those that haven’t had the chance to help yet, but said you would, please don’t delay. Our expenses are rising – I’m willing to donate valuable time and money to this because I understand the necessity to use my political experience and talents to protect our profession. What are you doing to protect your license and your community’s access to our medicine? Right now is the time to step up. We are in a battle and need everyone to participate.
Please go to the buy now tab above and select the level of financial participation you believe your profession is worth. Additional donations are being flagged for a PR initiative, your help is necessary to protect our amazing practice of medicine in Florida.
If you just can’t afford to join, I challenge you, join the consumer committee and get others to join. That’s only $35 per year; but sends a loud message to the legislature – Florida consumers, their constituents, have joined an organization to protect their access to FS457 licensees.
Go to the buy it now tab to join, contribute and help us protect our practice!
Thank you for your help!
Dr. Mary Riggin, President
Florida Society for Doctors of Oriental Medicine
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