More than 60 leaders in the education and healthcare fields attended a forum sponsored by the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA) in an attempt to tackle the problem of the shortages of speech-language pathologists. Participants met in Rockville, Md, from September 28 through 30 to strategize solutions and develop action plans to take back to their communities. The group was diverse, with representation from university academic programs, school districts, state education agencies, health care facilities, government agencies, and recruitment agencies.

“Each contribution is important. Only by bringing a variety of stakeholder groups together to brainstorm ideas for solving the shortage problem can we adequately begin to solve it,” says ASHA President Alex Johnson, PhD. He outlined some of the problems experienced by SLPs and the impact of the shortage on service delivery to people with communication disorders in his welcoming remarks. Johnson underscored the idea that there was a need to create an environment where people want to be successfully employed.

“The solutions will be multifaceted and take time,” says Lemmietta McNeilly, PhD, CCC-SLP, chief staff officer, speech-language pathology for ASHA. McNeilly opened the meeting with a powerful review of ASHA’s previous attempts to address the personnel shortages. Those efforts include: 2005-2007 Focused Initiative Work Plans. “An array of solutions will be needed,” McNeilly says, and “it is the collective responsibility of all stakeholders to address this need.”
Presentations outlined comprehensive approaches to the shortages in schools in Ohio, Colorado, Texas, North Dakota, and Oregon. Other sessions looked at the shortage issue in healthcare settings and in university and PhD programs. Participants also divided into groups to explore solutions and develop individual action plans.

[SOURCE: ASHA, October 2006]