Physical therapy bill waiting to be passed by governor

Christina Toroyan

San Fernando Valley Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield is the driving force behind the Physical Therapy Bill, which he says is one of his top priorities because the bill is about jobs, student access, the California economy and health care. Courtesy of Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield

The bill that will preserve the physical therapy program at CSUN and will offer a doctor of physical therapy degree, has passed the California Legislature and will be sent to the governor for approval.

The California Assembly voted 61 to 2 for approval of Assembly Bill 2382, authored by Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield of the San Fernando Valley, on Aug. 17, according to a press release from Blumenfield’s District Office.

“Physical therapy is one of the top three jobs in demand today,” Blumenfield said. “We must keep these good paying, professional jobs here in the state and in the San Fernando Valley.”

Due to the new national standards requiring all physical therapists to have a doctorate in physical therapy, the bill will allow the CSU system to grant physical therapy doctorate degrees with no additional cost to the state.

Out of 208 physical therapy schools in the United States, 200 have already made the switch to the new national accreditation standards, said Janna Beling, interim department chair of CSUN’s physical therapy program.

It was a voluntary choice to convert physical programs in the nation, said Sheryl Low, department chair of CSUN’s physical therapy program.

However, 95 percent of schools had already converted by 2009, which is why the commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) made it mandatory.

Low helped create AB 2382 a year ago. She asked the California Physical Therapy Association (CPTA), which she works for, if they would sponsor a bill to allow the CSU system to alter their physical therapy program to offer a doctorate in physical therapy.

She met with Blumenfield to author the bill and he decided to carry it because CSUN is in his district, Low said.

Without the bill, CSUN’s physical therapy program would be one of the many to be shut down, Blumenfield said.

The programs would no longer be accredited, Beling added. Thirty-three percent of those entering the physical therapy profession are graduates of CSUN, along with three other universities, Blumenfield’s press release stated.

Beling said the Bureau of Labor and Statistics states that by the year 2016, there will be a 30 percent increase for the need of physical therapists.

Beling also said she anticipates that if AB 2382 is to pass, the applicants for the doctoral level will increase. This year, there were close to 500 applicants for 40 positions, Beling said.

If the bill is passed, it will most likely be based on the Doctor of Education Degree, where students pay a higher cost for a doctoral education, Beling said. It will still be remarkably cheaper and more accessible than private education for physical therapy.

“AB 2382 is one of my top priority bills,” Blumenfield said. “It is about jobs, student access, the California economy and health care.”

The assembly initially expressed hesitation for the bill, Low said.

“When the Assembly started seeing the bill as a way to keep the physical therapists working and providing jobs, they got on board with it,” Low said. “They wanted to keep the education public, instead of forcing students to attend private education, which wouldn’t be as accessible or affordable.”

The UC system also expressed their own set of concerns, Low said.

When they realized the degree would be more of a professional doctorate, not a doctor of philosophy, the UC system got on board, Low said.

At first, the legislatures did not want to get involved between the UC and the CSU systems, but once the UC system took a neutral position, the legislatures got on board with AB 2382, Low said.

“They (the legislatures) made sure that this bill only applied strictly to the physical therapy program,” Low said.

The CSU Board of Trustees decided not to author the legislation, for political reasons, financial drawbacks and issues with the UC system, Low said.

“President Jolene Koester told me that she will help in a neutral position,” Low said. “She told me to take it to CPTA and see what they say. Although she wasn’t the one in power to make decisions, she said she’ll do anything in her power to keep the programs from closing.”

AB 2382 is Blumenfield’s first bill that has been passed by the California Legislature.

“When I approached Assemblyman Blumenfield about authoring the bill, he was newly elected,” Low said. “He really put himself out on a limb to advance this bill through the California Legislature.”

The bill will need to be passed by 2013 in order for CSU campuses to continue taking admissions for the 2013-2014 academic year, Blumenfield said.