Dear Editor,

Research has shown that one of the biggest causes of the nation's overdose crisis is an overabundance of prescription opioids. While opioids may be medically necessary for some patients, it is ridiculous to chronically prescribe them for relatively minor injuries and illnesses – especially when alternatives like physical therapy are available.

More and more Americans are seeking safe, professional and patient-preferred physical therapy services to help ease their pain and increase mobility. Unfortunately, the growing demand coupled with an aging population, is creating a large service gap which hurts patient access – especially in rural areas.

To help address the estimated 27,000 physical therapist shortfall by 2025, Mississippi Sen. Roger Wicker recently introduced S. 970. The bipartisan bill would help expand the physical therapy workforce by allowing physical therapists to participate in the National Health Service Corps student loan repayment program.

By offering student loan repayments to physical therapists who serve in medically underserved or designated healthcare professional shortage areas, the bill would help expand services to people in Mississippi's most rural and high-need places. Helping more physical therapists enter the profession is critical to providing alternative treatments and ending the dangerous overreliance on prescription opioids.

I applaud Sen. Wicker for sponsoring S. 970 and urge Congress to quickly enact this bill so that underserved communities in Mississippi can access safe and effective physical therapy services.

Chad Barker

Tupelo

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