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Inside CSULB
Vol 57 No. 8 : April 2005
Vol 57 No. 8 | Apr. 2005

Prof Gets Students Involved in Medicare Issues

Photo of Students in Washington D. C.

During their visit to the American Therapeutic and Recreation Association Conference in Washington, D.C. in March, 16 CSULB students got to have their picture taken with California Sen. Barbara Boxer. In the back row are (l-r) Assistant Professor Maridith Janssen, Tiffany Prior, Daniel Huss, Clay Barbosa, Katie Tincher, Melissa Campeau, Laura Mejia, Tracy Tremayne and Sonja James; in the middle row are (l-r) Denver Nino, Amy Gerberding, Sarah Moon, and Vicki Storberg; and in the front row are (l-r) Amanda Martinez, Renee Bartlett, Sara Rosell, Boxer and Kimberly Light. Photo courtesy of Maridith Janssen.

Sixteen. That's how many CSULB students attended the recent American Therapeutic Recreation Association (ATRA) mid-year conference in Washington, D.C. Considering just two other schools with a total of 10 students were represented at all, well, that begged the question, how did CSULB show up with such a large contingent?

It all began when Assistant Professor Maridith Janssen was returning from attending another ATRA conference in Kansas City last October.

“In the fall I had come back from that conference and one of the things they were talking about was the Medicare Guidelines and the fact that in the mid-year conference, they were going to make a major push for therapeutic recreation to be clarified and included in the current language,” said Janssen, now in her sixth year at CSULB. “I brought this information into a senior level therapeutic recreation class I was teaching and I talked to students about it.”

The next thing she knew, she had the names of 24 students on a sheet of paper indicating they were interested attending the ATRA mid-year conference in Washington, D.C., in March, and asking if it could be made into a class.

“The students were the ones who initiated the idea of turning it into a class so they could go,” said Janssen. “I took it from there and ran with it, though I had never done something like this before.”

So, an idea born in October, resulted in a six-week course in March, run through CSULB's University College and Extension Services.

It's not a required course in the therapeutic recreation curriculum, but rather a special topics course that could be offered every two years. Its focus was on legislative action in therapeutic recreation and part of the course required students, at their own expense, going to Washington D.C. to attend the ATRA mid-year conference. They also spent a day going to Capitol Hill and meeting members of Congress, including California Sen. Barbara Boxer, and having an opportunity to discuss with them the rewrite of the Medicare Guidelines to include therapeutic recreation services.

“Right now ATRA is looking at clarifying the way therapeutic recreation is written in the current language of the Medicare Guidelines,” noted Janssen. “The way the language is written right now it is very controversial for our profession. I brought that information into the classroom to the students and shared with them the opportunity to try to get in there and start making changes with it. We met with members of Congress from California and with their legislative aides. We sat down and talked about what it was that we were trying to do as a profession with the Medicare Guidelines.”

According to Janssen, the executive director, president and many of the board members from ATRA were amazed at how many students came from California, all from CSULB.

“Other educators at the conference asked how we got so many students (ranging from 22-41 in age) from here to go and part of it is that we had a class,” said Janssen. “The fact that I had put a course together that would support them going to the conference was a big piece of it.”

Another big part was the enthusiasm students had towards the Medicare Guidelines, specifically the rewriting and clarification of therapeutic recreation services in the language because of how it directly impacts them down the road professionally.

“They wanted to be kind of in that grassroots movement of being able to see the process go through legislature to look at getting more recreation therapists hired at positions down the road,” said Janssen. “A lot of the students were fired up about it and wanted to go and be a part of that. I think they saw my enthusiasm for it, but they also saw a great opportunity to have an impact on their future profession.”

“Seeing how the whole process works and getting involved in the national organization is such an awesome experience. The students were intrigued by the types of sessions they attended at the conference and by getting to meet the executive director and the president of the American Therapeutic Recreation Association and getting to personally talk with the board members.”

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