Thursday, December 28, 2006

Kentucky Autism Task Force Issues Recommendations

The Kentucky Commission on Autism Spectrum Disorders recently issued 15 recommendations for the state to enact both legislation and program changes to help an estimated 24,000 Kentucky citizens who have autism. If you don't live near Louisville, but want to familiarize yourself with issues that other states should be tackling, it's worth scanning the 39-page final report. (See link at the bottom of this website that says "KY ASD Comprehensive State Plan." It brings up a Microsoft Word document.) The commission is introducing legislation for consideration in the 2007 General Assembly session.

The recommendations include:
  • Creating a statewide program "responsible for implementing and monitoring services and supports for individuals with autism spectrum disorders and their families and caregivers."
  • Establishing an advisory board that includes parents, siblings, legal guardians, service providers, adults with autism spectrum disorders to meet regularly with those running the statewide program.
  • Finding the money to pay for services. Seeking waivers to the Medicare and Medicaid programs to help pay for autism services. Getting state money to pay for services not supported by Medicare and Medicaid.
  • Fully funding early intervention programs for young children with autism.
  • Coordinating autism services for kids in public schools with the state Department of Education.
  • Hiring qualified staff in school districts. Developing training programs for such staff and others working directly with people with autism and working with families and other caregivers.
  • Providing extended school day and school year services for children with autism "without the need to show regression."
  • Mandating autism screening for all children at 18 months, two years, four years, initial school physical and sixth-grade school physical.
  • Mandating insurance coverage to pay for autism-related services including Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services for people with pervasive developmental disorder that exceeds current state limits of $500 per month. Eliminating insurance deductibles and co-payments associated with this benefit.
  • Identifying regional service centers that can disseminate information and provide training about best practices for treating autism to educators, health care providers, other service providers, families and other caregivers.
  • Providing vocational training programs for people with autism.
The report ends up by urging those who care the most about people with autism -- including their families, caregivers, and autistic individuals themselves -- to monitor the state government's progress on enacting all of these initiatives.

The Louisville Courier-Journal newspaper published an editorial titled "Better Autism Services," on Dec. 23 praising the work of the state commission. The editorial notes that Kentucky still needs to come up with an estimated price tag for its recommendations. State Rep. Scott Brinkman, a Louisville Republican who led the autism task force, told the newspaper, "It's going to require some significant resources." The paper concludes:

Of course, much the same kind of statement could be made about other needs affecting Kentuckians -- including those with other forms of learning disabilities, mental retardation, and so forth.

But the rising incidence of autism, nationally and in Kentucky, makes it a pressing problem. Rep. Brinkman and his panel deserve praise for addressing it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How do we get other states to follow?