August 1, 2013 Departments

State Spotlight: Iowa Speech-Language Hearing Association

Website: www.isha.org
Facebook: Iowa Speech-Language Hearing Association
Established: 1947
Members: 409
Contact: Melissa Primus, 515-282-8192 or mprimus@isha.org; Kelli Zeimetz-Mehmert, president, kellizm@gmail.com

How is ISHA making a difference in members' professional lives?

ISHA seeks to make a difference in our members' lives by providing high-quality CEU opportunities, working with lobbyists to clarify and protect the speech-language pathology and audiology scopes of practice, and advocating with state legislators for continued provision of Medicaid speech-language pathology services to those unable to pay.

What is the most significant challenge, unique circumstance or pressing frustration facing communication sciences and disorders professionals in your state today?

During our legislative session this year, music therapists proposed a bill that would allow licensure for certified music therapists. The proposed scope of practice included assessment and treatment of communication and cognitive disorders. Thanks to critical conversations among the ISHA leaders, the ISHA consultant and lobbyist, and ASHA staff, ISHA was successful in blocking the bill. ISHA continues to be active in conversations with state senators who support the music therapist licensure bill to ensure that the speech-language pathology scope of practice is protected.

Iowa also has a shortage of SLPs in certain areas of the state, and we anticipate that a large number of service providers will retire over the next 10 years. The limited resources of university programs to keep up with the demand will result in shortages and threats to the profession. Although the number of SLPs and audiologists continues to grow, ISHA is faced with declining membership, suggesting either a lack of commitment on the part of professionals or an inability of ISHA to convince professionals of the value of a state association.

What is your association's proudest accomplishment?

ISHA continues to be a strong association that is able to offer high-quality continuing education and advocacy efforts while supporting the professions of speech-language pathology and audiology.

What is a particularly memorable event in your association's history and how did it come about?

For SLPs in private practice, an ongoing frustration is reimbursement. ISHA worked long and hard with Wellmark, the local Blue Cross Blue Shield company, to improve its pediatrics policy. Private insurance companies often require medical necessity for speech-language services—defined as "treatment to restore speech lost due to illness, injury or surgery." This definition easily supports many adult disorders, but not pediatrics. ISHA leaders worked with Wellmark over the course of a few years, and the wording was deleted. It is slowly vanishing from many private insurance policies, but not all. Also, allowing private-practice SLPs to bill Wellmark and other private insurances has been a huge accomplishment. Up until about two years ago, only SLPs in a hospital system could bill.

Do you have a particularly successful advocacy or recruitment strategy to share?

Our lobbyist spearheaded the most recent and notable advocacy effort, which focused on the inclusion of SLPs and audiologists in school salary adjustments a few years ago. The teachers union excluded SLPs and audiologist from the process; our lobbyist advocated rigorously and successfully to include us in proposed salary adjustments. Without that effort, school-based SLPs and audiologists would have been left out of the large raises given to all teachers and administrators.

What should every communication science and disorders professional in your state know about the association?

As a member of ISHA, you have the opportunity to make a difference. Your membership dues help support your lobbyist, whose efforts protect your job, your profession, your workload, your credentials, and the laws and policies that govern your practice. Whether you are an SLP or audiologist, and whether you are in health care, education or private practice, the goal is the same. Become an ISHA member today!

Kelli Zeimetz-Mehmert, MA, CCC-SLP, ISHA president mehmertk@winmedical.org

cite as: Zeimetz-Mehmert, K. (2013, August 01). State Spotlight: Iowa Speech-Language Hearing Association. The ASHA Leader.

  

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