Gov. Roy Cooper has signed a bill into law expanding the ability of licensed occupational therapists to practice across state lines.

House Bill 224 passed both chambers of the legislature unanimously — 119-0 in the N.C. House in March and 46-0 in the Senate in May.

“This bill preserves and maintains our state’s licensure and regulatory authorities, while enhancing access to skilled occupational therapy services, both in person and through telehealth,” said Rep. Kristin Baker, R-Cabarrus, a primary sponsor of H.B. 224. “Interstate compacts like this one additionally improve continuity of care when patients travel or relocate, which benefits all our citizens, including military families.”

Rep. Larry Potts, R-Davidson, told Carolina Journal that another beneficiary of the new law will be residents of counties that border other states.

“In border counties, sometimes people are closer to services in a city in that other state, so this law will give occupational therapists the opportunity to practice their craft without having to go through a long licensing process,” he said.

The new law means North Carolina will join an interstate compact to recognize occupational therapy licenses in other states. Therapists would be allowed to practice in other states if they are part of the compact, and therapists who move would more easily be able to get a license in their new state.

Under the compact, spouses of active duty military members could practice therapy in states where they’re stationed while maintaining a license in their home state.

The compact is a project organized by the American Occupational Therapy Association and the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy to reduce barriers for their members to move while staying in their profession. Similar compacts already exist for doctors, nurses, physical therapists, psychologists, and EMS workers.

“This new law shows in one field the good that could be done in North Carolina by honoring other state’s licenses, which should encourage policymakers to consider other reforms such as Universal License Recognition, as many other states already have,” said Jon Sanders, research editor and senior Fellow, Regulatory Studies, at the John Locke Foundation.

Said Rep. Chris Humphrey, R-Pitt, another sponsor on the bill, said: “This new law will allow state remote reciprocity which benefits both patients and occupational therapists. We live in a new world where health care professionals should be able to practice their occupation across state lines without causing harm to consumers. It is common sense legislation that gives greater access to those who need it most and will greatly benefit those who live in rural North Carolina. “