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New Program Approved for Arkansas Tech – Ozark

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The Arkansas Department of Higher Education Coordinating Board (ADHECB)  granted approval to Arkansas Tech University – Ozark Campus to offer a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant program during their quarterly meeting on Friday, February 4, 2011.

A Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA), under the supervision of an Occupational Therapist, provides rehabilitative services to individuals with mental, physical, emotional, or developmental disabilities. The COTA’s purpose is to improve a client’s quality of life and enhance his/her ability to perform daily activities. COTAs provide clients with adaptive skills that enable them to reenter the workforce, instruct clients in compensating for a loss of motor skill function, and plan activities that increase the independence of the physically and/or developmentally disabled.

The development of the Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) program at Arkansas Tech – Ozark was initiated in response to requests made by regional Occupational Therapy providers in the Ozark Campus service area.  An examination into the need for an OTA program was then launched, as well as an assessment of whether the program  met the mission of the Ozark Campus.  The data collected indicated that, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, employment as a COTA is projected to increase much faster than the average occupation, and the long term employment projections for OTA reflect a 39% increase from 2006 – 2016. Also, according to data collected from local and regional health care providers in the Ozark Campus service area, OTA’s were not available to fill the job market needs.

Dr. Jo Alice Blondin, Chancellor, stated,”The Ozark Campus responded to the health care needs of our region by collaborating with area providers to design an Occupational Therapy Assistant program that will produce the highest quality and rigorously trained practioners."

The university also conducted a survey of community interest in the OTA degree program in the fall of 2010.  The results of the survey indicated that 97.4% of the 258 total responses were in favor of the development of an OTA program at the Ozark Campus.  The university has gathered letters of support from various regional occupational therapy providers in support of an OTA program.

Chief Academic Officer, Mr. Bruce Sikes observed,  “We feel the Occupational Therapy Assistant (OTA) program is an exceptional opportunity to build upon the Allied Health offerings currently housed at the Ozark Campus: LPN, Paramedic, Health Information Technology, and Physical Therapist Assistant. The OTA program will provide students with the knowledge and tools required to deliver specialized support to the Occupational Therapy community in our region, which is currently underserved. The OTA program is currently seeking accreditation through the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education.”

Although similar programs do exist in the state of Arkansas, the growth potential for an Occupational Therapy Assistant program indicated a need for a program in the Ozark campus service area.  The Ozark Campus currently serves the western river valley region of:  Franklin, Logan, Johnson, Crawford, Pope and Sebastian counties.  It should also be of note that no program exists in the northwest or southwest corners of our state.  The two programs currently accredited to provide OTA instruction in this state are located in Central Arkansas and Southeastern Arkansas regions.  These programs have limited enrollment opportunities and do not support the health care provider needs for COTAs in the western region of Arkansas.