The state Senate is due to consider an autism task force bill that has already passed the House,
The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reports Feb. 11. (You can see the story here.) The newspaper quotes a leading sponsor of the bill, Rep. Noal Akins, an Oxford Republican, who cited the importance of the issue to him personally: he has an autistic grandchild. "You don't realize how many people have family members affected by this. This is a growing problem," Akins tells the newspaper.
Autism Bulletin readers will recall that recently issued reports by autism task forces in Washington and Kentucky have identified what their states should do to improve the diagnosis and treatment of people with autism spectrum disorders. Read about Kentucky's recommendations here, and see an article about Washington State's task force here.
The language in Mississippi House Bill No. 1267 sets up a panel that includes three parents of children with autism, along with one school board member, a special education director, representatives from state education and mental health agencies, three autism services providers, two pediatricians and one University of Mississippi Medical Center doctor who works with autism patients.
If the bill passes as now written, here's a rundown of its assignment to assess needs and existing services for people with autism and autism spectrum disorders (ASD):
- Review the best practices of other states with regard to educational, medical and early intervention services provided to individuals diagnosed with autism or ASD and identify the best practices of other states;
- Review the standard of services provided by local Mississippi school districts and early intervention programs to individuals diagnosed with autism or ASD, identify any additional potential funding sources for school districts, and identify guidelines for measurable educational and instructional goals that can be used by members of the education community for serving children with autism or ASD;
- Assess the medical availability of services currently provided for early screening, diagnosis and treatment of autism and ASD and provide recommendations for enhancing medical services;
- Identify the role of higher education in developing a workforce in Mississippi possessing the skills necessary to assist individuals with autism or ASD in medical, educational, and vocational efforts or in providing additional services associated with autism or ASD;
- Evaluate and identify any and all additional relevant information and make legislative recommendations regarding the development and implementation of a continuum of educational and medical services for individuals with autism or ASD; and
- File a report with those standing committees of the Mississippi State Legislature and with those state agencies having jurisdiction over specific recommendations of the task force, not later than December 1, 2007.
If approved, the task force is supposed to start work by April 1.
Here is a link to the Mississippi Legislature's website. I found the text of the bill, sponsored by Akins and six other House members, by clicking on "bill status text search" and doing a text search on "autism."