Virgin Islanders will now have improved access to physical therapist (PT) services—and a much more effective physical therapy practice act—thanks to a new law signed by Governor John P. de Jongh Jr, on July 11.
The new law, Act No. 760, allows for direct access to evaluation and treatment by a PT without a physician’s referral, and includes changes to the licensing law that protect the term "physical therapy" as an activity that can only be engaged in by a PT, among other improvements.
Prior to the act's passage a physician referral was required for all PT services. The new law, which takes effect on October 9, 2014, allows for treatment without a referral for 45 days or 12 treatment visits.
"It’s been a long time coming, but consumers will now have greater access to quality health care provided by physical therapists," said Virgin Islands APTA member Jerry Smith, PT, DPT, ATC. "These changes could not have happened without the work of the physical therapy community here."
In addition to direct access, Act. No. 7620 also makes significant updates to the physical therapy practice act. Besides the protection of "physical therapy" as a term that can only describe the activities of PTs, the new law provides title protection for "DPT" and "doctor of physical therapy,” an updated definition for the practice of physical therapy, an expanded board of physical therapy, and revised qualifications for licensure.
"APTA commends the work of the dedicated physical therapists in the US Virgin Islands who worked for many years to bring about these legislative changes," said APTA President Paul Rockar Jr, PT, DPT, MS. "Improved patient access to PT services continues to be a high priority for the profession and APTA."
Earlier this year both Oklahoma and Michigan enacted direct access legislation. The new Oklahoma law goes into effect on November 1, and the Michigan law on January 1, 2015. All 50 states, DC, and now the US Virgin Islands have enacted laws allowing for direct access to evaluation and some level of treatment without a physician referral.
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