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CVPA faculty, alumna advocate music therapy profession to state lawmakers
On February 28th Dr. Patricia Winter, Associate Professor of Music, traveled to Washington D.C. with a group of music therapy alumna to meet with state senators, delegates and legislative assistants to discuss recognition of music therapy as a profession in Virginia. Also included in the meeting were representatives from the American Music Therapy Association.
The discussions began, in part, because of an issue in Loudoun County where a music therapy program was cut due to budget issues. The school district asked other professionals, such as occupational therapists, to provide music therapy services for children with disabilities.
Dr. Winter and her colleagues believe that the district’s decision raises ethical issues regarding compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) which was originally signed into law by President Gerald Ford in 1975 as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act. Later updated as IDEA in the 1990s, the law was enacted to provide children with disabilities the same educational opportunities as those without disabilities. The decision to cut the music therapy program could impact a sizable caseload of children who would be receiving required music therapy services by unqualified professionals.
The American Music Therapy Association initially contacted the Loudoun County school district and the Virginia Department of Education requesting that the program be reinstated, but the request was denied.
The Virginia Music Therapy State Task Force arranged the meeting with state leaders to discuss a possible bill that would provide occupational protections for music therapists. The proposed bill would establish guidelines for who can qualify to practice music therapy, and would also open a variety of funding streams for the profession which are not currently accessible to music therapists.
“This was our first trip to the Hill. It was a very encouraging success. We met with Senators, Delegates, and Legislative Assistants to talk about the pressing importance of professional recognition. There were several folks who were incredibly supportive of the issue at hand and requested that we follow up with them when they return to their home offices. I left, that day, feeling very encouraged by the process and that the Virginia Music Therapy State Task Force and the American Music Therapy Association have gained significant momentum to put in place protections for clients and professionals in Virginia,” said Dr. Winter.
Dr. Winter and her colleagues plan for continued advocacy of the initiative to make music therapy a recognized profession in Virginia.