An OT Goes to Atlanta
There's an occupational therapist in Georgia who's running for a seat in the State Senate.
Bikram Mohanty, OTR/L, who owns Innovative Rehab Solutions, with two outpatient clinics in Waycross and Valdosta, Ga., is the Democratic candidate for Georgia's 8th Senate district, which encompasses six counties in the south central part of the state.
Mohanty ran in the 2012 race for District 8 and captured almost 40% of the vote. While he lost to Republican incumbent Tim Golden, Golden announced in March that he will not be running for re-election, so Mohanty is confident that he can capture the seat come November.
"I came to this country in 1995," Mohanty told me. "I had $50 in my pocket and the clothes on my back." Following his education at the National Institute of Orthopedics in Calcutta, Mohanty pursued the dream of many OTs in that country, making his way west. He settled in South Georgia, and began practicing with Aegis Therapies and then South Georgia Medical Center. In 2002, he opened his own practice, which at one point had more than 50 employees.
"This country has inspired me to reach higher," he said of his decision to open his own business. "I consider every challenge an opportunity."
If elected, Mohanty will split his time between the business and serving his constituents. State legislators must be in the capital from January through April. Mohanty ran unopposed in the Democratic primary; Republican candidate Ellis Black defeated John P. Page in a runoff primary election July 22 and will face Mohanty in November.
Mohanty decries a severe shortage of rehabilitation professionals in political positions -- which does patients a disservice, he said. It's a mission he hopes to bring to Atlanta. "Imagine having a PT, OT and a speech-language pathologist in every State house," he said. "Think what that would do for our patients. I'm running for their dream."
Mohanty uses the example of a proposed state bill that would prohibit insurance companies to halt coverage for children who have autism when they reach a certain age - a common policy among insurers. Effectively the bill -- which has passed with universal support in the Senate but is stalled in the House -- would ensure lifetime coverage for people with autism.
"OTs see autistic children all the time," said Mohanty. "Imagine what this bill could do for families, and for OT practitioners." Another example is the Medicare therapy cap. "In all practicality, think what would happen to that cap if there were more therapists in Congress. I want to reach out to every OT, PT, and speech-language pathologist and tell them this task is critical."
But Mohanty pledges to bring more than just a therapist's perspective to office. His flagship issue is education. After learning that many teachers in his district pay for school supplies out of their own pockets, Mohanty has pledged to improve school funding, and promises to accept only $1 in Senate salary, donating the rest to his district's teachers.
To accomplish his objectives, Mohanty declares he will sidestep ideological divides and work together to arrive at real solutions for his constituents.
"The principle that I go by is that political opponents can be friends," said Mohanty, alluding to the current atmosphere of deadlocked government in which innovative ideas are not allowed to flourish. "Idealism is fine, but we have to find a way to not pull each other down."
The election will be held November 4.