Arkansas is considering forming an autism task force. A marked-up version of the bill, dated March 19, is available online here (PDF file). The Arkansas Legislative Task Force on Autism, if approved under the current language, would examine the state's response to autism spectrum disorders, determine treatment best practices and make recommendations on "more efficient methods" for treatment, how to obtain more federal funding for treatment and special education programs, and ways to change state law to provide more services and special education programs to autistic children. A report would be due by Aug. 31, 2008.
If Arkansas' efforts sound familiar, that's because other states have done this. See articles here on Washington and Kentucky, and a report about Mississippi's considering the same idea.
New Mexico has allocated $3.9 million boost to autism services, according to an article online in The Santa Fe New Mexican. The money goes to the state Department of Health budget for autism services, training and evaluations. Read the March 18 story online here at freenewmexican.com.
New Mexico's legislature is also considering a bill that would prohibit health insurers from discriminating against a patient based on an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis. See coverage on that issue here.
South Carolina is also considering a bill to require health insurers to cover autism treatments, according to TV station WIS-TV in Columbia, S.C. See this brief report, which includes some reporting by the Associated Press and a link to a short video.
Missouri looks to use education construction funds to build a new autism center. The Southeast Missourian newspaper reported March 8 that a $24 million proposal for construction projects at Southeast Missouri State University, that would include a $2.6 million center for autism diagnosis and treatment, has the support of Gov. Matt Blunt and legislative leaders. See the short article here. The Republican governor recently made a point of mentioning the need to boost autism services in his state of the state speech. Read about that here.
Connecticut is considering a proposal to create an autism agency. The Journal Inquirer newspaper reported March 17 that Rep. Christopher L. Caruso, a Bridgeport Democrat supports the idea to create a new agency as a way to make delivery of autism-related services to the state's estimated 2,900 children with autism spectrum disorders. See the story online here.
Finally, there were two items in the news involving people working to support their grandchildren with autism. The BBC reports March 19 about a grandmother who has started Hope House, a school for kids with autism she plans to open this summer in a former hostel. Terri Westmoreland says she was disillusioned with services the school system provided so she took matters into her own hands, including raising money for a program to serve 40 children.
And finally, there is the Grandparents Autism Network, a group that has started up in Tustin, California. The group says on its website:
The Grandparent Autism Network informs grandparents about autism and the medical, educational, legal and social issues that affect their families, enabling them to share how they may improve the quality of life for their children and grandchildren. Activities include social events for grandparents and grandchildren and advocacy efforts to increase support for autism causes.Sounds like a good idea.