Statement of Cathy Chiovitti Williams, CTRS
Supervisor, Recreation Theraphy Section
James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital, Tampa, FL
Veterans Health Administration, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Good Morning, Congresswoman Brown, Congressman Bilirakis, and Congressman Miller. Thank you for inviting us here to discuss the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital Recreational Therapy program.
The James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital provides recreation therapy to Veterans and Servicemembers within Veteran Integrated Services Network (VISN) 8. The Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Service’s Recreational Therapy Section currently has 21 full time employees. Seventeen (17) of the employees are recreational therapists who possess specialized training and a Bachelor of Science or a Master of Science degree in therapeutic recreation. Most of our staff is certified by the National Council for Therapeutic Recreation. All Tampa Recreational Therapists are Certified Brain Injury Specialists.
Our goal is to maximize each patient’s rehabilitation potential through active recreation, leisure and sport pursuits, which are designed to improve or maintain physical, emotional, social, and cognitive functioning for a better quality of life and increased independence. Recreation activities enhance physical health, psychosocial and cognitive status, and improve functional independence in the community. Recreation therapy provides resources and opportunities to improve overall health and wellbeing. It improves physical health by increasing mobility, range of motion, strength, motor skills coordination, vestibular balance, agility, and athletic skills. Recreational therapy also improves psychosocial communication, trust, and cooperation skills while enhancing morale, life satisfaction, self esteem, socialization and camaraderie. In addition, the program addresses cognitive deficiencies through enhanced attention, memory and perception; increased alertness and awareness of surroundings; and reduced confusion and disorientation.
VA clinical staff conducts a thorough assessment to ensure we develop a treatment plan that best meets the needs of the individual patient. We work with the patient and his or her family to develop this plan. Activities and programs are tailored to be appropriate for the individual patient to facilitate the best possible outcomes. In sum, we adopt a “whole person” view that considers the individual’s activity interests and patterns before their injury, illness or disability and we focus on returning the patient as much as possible to his or her previous functionality, ability and activity levels to promote active community participation.
The therapeutic recreation staff conducts leisure education counseling to provide a baseline of information for patients. This counseling enables patients to broaden their perspective on what activities are available to them. Patients are offered as many opportunities as possible to participate in community recreation resources and to improve their overall wellbeing through leisure participation. In Tampa, our recreation therapy programs include activities such as archery, animal assisted activities, bowling, fishing, horseback riding, air gun and trap shooting, basketball, cycling, golf, power soccer, rowing, sled hockey, tennis, water skiing, sailing, track and field, arts and crafts, among others.
The James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital Therapeutic Recreation program benefits considerably from its multiple community, governmental and university partnerships. We collaborate closely with external parties to provide recreational special events for inpatients such as trips to Kennedy Space Center shuttle launches, cultural and community events, and local sporting events, such as baseball games, NASCAR events, and the Super Bowl. Veterans receiving treatment at our facility also participate in VA sponsored events like the National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic, the National Veterans Winter Sports Clinic, the National Veterans Wheelchair Games, the National Veterans Golden Age Games, the National Veterans Training, Exposure and Experience (TEE) Tournament, and the National Creative Arts Festival. We have had patients also participate in other national events not sponsored by VA, including Challenge Aspen, Lima Foxtrot, Endeavor Games, and the Paralympics’ Military Sports Camps.
Our program in Tampa continuously provides patient-centered recreation therapy services. This enhances current abilities and helps Veterans develop new skills through recreation therapy activities for daily living, community functioning, and quality of life. Thank you again for the opportunity to appear before you today. My colleagues and I are prepared to answer any questions you may have.