Now is the Time...

…Is the cry of the Physical Therapists on dry needling in Florida.

Yes, they are back - and stronger than ever.

It seems like we’ve been hearing more and more about the PTs and their quest for a broader scope of practice and inclusion of dry needling across the US. Many states, especially those with no licensure yet, have very little input from the acupuncture profession, in their political process. This is partly why dry needling is getting through regulatory boards without any problem. Unfortunately, the problem this poses for us in Florida, is that they are creating their argument to get this through the Florida legislature. There’s only been a handful of the stronger states that have been able to fight the PTs push for dry needling.

In Florida, we’ve been able to fight them off - but each “win” we achieve is only good until the legislature is back in session.

It’s like Mark Twain said

“No man’s (or woman’s) life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.”

If it weren’t for all 3 Florida associations coming together to fight dry needling - the PTs would already have it in law in Florida. Unfortunately, our wins in the past few years are in the past. They are planning on pursuing legislation in the 2017 legislative session and if we don’t have friends up in Tallahassee, they may pull it off. They have been spreading around donations and have been very politically active. They want this bad - do we want it more than they do?

Lobbying is only as good as the profession that puts time into the “grass roots” aspect of the process. The only way to get away with not doing “grass roots” is to have at least 2 million dollars in a political action account. Since that is not realistic for our profession, we need to do the “leg work” since there’s no other way. That means getting out there and meeting your state representative and senator. Get to know them. Don’t just go one time; stop in from time to time. Go to events their campaign is hosting. If they see you around town at Chamber of Commerce events ( I look for the political meetings they host) and if they see you at their colleagues fund-raisers, you won’t be a stranger when we have an issue come up and you call for help - they will probably even remember you and your name.

For those that have tried to do this in the past, did you become discouraged because your legislator was unavailable?

This is what happened to me many times in the early years, and still happens now from time to time.

Here’s the deal: they have so many people - from constituents to special interest groups - knocking on their doors all the time!

So, when is the best time to get a legislator to talk to you? During an election year! It is the best time to meet them and tell them about yourself and your profession!

Right now, every seat in the Florida legislature is up for grabs. This means, now is the time to pick up a phone and call your local Representative and Senator and try to get an appointment to meet them. They are all in their local offices and they are out there campaigning to keep their seat in the legislature.

Here’s how you do it:

1. Call the office and ask for an appointment - when asked what it’s about, just say “I’m a constituent and would like to meet Senator/Representative _____.

2. Day of appointment, dress professional - you are representing your clinic as well as your profession! Bring a patient or colleague if you are nervous, so you don’t have to do it alone.

3. What to say… introduce yourself, where you live, where your clinic is located, and ask them if they know anything about Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Ask them if they are aware that Florida licenses the practice as a form of primary healthcare under FS457, and we provide the public with natural options that are licensed and regulated by the Department of Health.

4. Ask them if they have questions about what you do, and if they’ve ever experienced any type of natural medicine.

5. Offer to be of service if they ever have any questions about Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.

6. Ask how you can be of help with their campaign.

7. If you bring a patient, have them share their experience with your practice.

Don’t get discouraged if you end up meeting with a staff person of the legislator. Sometimes, they are even better to have a conversation with - since they are the ones that make a career of government work and they don’t have term limits. That means your legislator may move on to another career, but that staffer you made friends with may just be the next assistant to a Senator you need to speak with in years to come.

I remember when I first started getting involved in political activism - back in 1997. I would get upset when I wouldn’t get to talk to the Senator. But I’ve learned over the years, that knowing that secretary can be just as valuable. Over the past 2 decades, I’ve seen many Senators and Representatives come and go through the halls of the Capitol - they have term limits! The secretaries, legislative assistants and other support staff, tend to stick around for a lot longer. And, the reality is, many times, they are the ones that are doing the research and compiling the information for their legislator to review. They are just as important to educate as your legislator.

This is a big year coming up!

The Physical Therapists are back and they are not backing down. Their tenacity has given them an upper hand in many states. However, in Florida, they have our profession to come up against, and we are not backing down. The Society never did get anywhere close to the "300 AP warriors" we started looking for a few years back, but we started the process and some of you responded. To those of you that did respond to that call to action - Thank You for your continued support! Every AP that answers the call to help - either by volunteering time or helping with the finances - is needed! We appriciate you taking the time to "step up" and help!

The PTs are after a broader scope of practice, they are after increased education, and they want dry needling. This has been their political agenda for years now; and their momentum is building.

We must keep ahead of them and on the offensive if we want to win this war!

Don’t just sit back and think someone else is going to do the fighting for you - there’s not enough of us to win this if only a few are willing to step up, step out and do their part.

There’s 16,197 FL PTs and 9,294 licensed PT assistants out there, and so it only takes a small percentage of them being active to win this. There’s only 2426 FL APs and if the same small percentage of our profession does something - that leaves us coming up way short in the political activism arena. It’s not that our profession is any different from any other, it’s just that when you do the math, and apply the percentage of what’s typical from a profession for political involvement - we are left way too short. This, at a time when we need strength and tenacity and everyone’s involvement. Our profession’s modalities are being preyed upon by those that are not trained in basic contraindications, clean field, nor the full scope of the medicine - which is necessary for the best possible outcomes from treatment plans. The only way to stop this is to continue to EDUCATE our lawmakers and policy makers - to the point of being more annoying than the PTs screeming to get our practice in their scope.

We need every AP in every city in Florida to visit their legislators, and candidates, before Election Day. Will you step up and take a few hours to help? You can even make an event of it and invite your favorite, “outspoken” patients and go as a group.

All political work takes time, volunteers, money and more money. Do your part - meet your legislators, support a FL association, and stay politically informed!

Let me know how it goes and if you need any help. If and when you make political friends, please, let me know - we are going to need all the help and friends we can get during this year's legislative session if we have a chance at winning the next battle in the 2017 Florida legislative session.

In Health,

Dr. Mary Riggin, LAc, DAc, AP, DOM

President, Florida Society for Doctors of Oriental Medicine

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