The incidence of autism has increased dramatically in recent years. The CDC now estimates that 1 in 68 children have autism. There are approximately 17,000 children in Minnesota with autism.
While the autism community has not always been united about how to approach this challenge, it is generally accepted that early diagnosis and intervention is effective in improving functioning and should be available to all affected children.
In 2013 the legislature passed the governor’s autism bill which expanded access to Medical Assistance payments for autism treatment. Unfortunately, due to a number of factors, the implementation stalled, and providers were not able to take advantage of the funding. Last year, a representative group of providers, advocates, and DHS staff worked together to make improvements that would allow for the accessing of the benefit. What emerged was a consensus bill that all supported.
A key feature of this consensus bill is giving the commissioner of DHS the authority to waive certain requirements based on the workforce shortage so that providers can actually access the benefit.
This legislative session HF 919 and SF562 were drafted to implement the Early Intensive Developmental and Behavioral Intervention (EIDBI). After passing through senate and house committees the bill is now on the floor of each body. Advocates are optimistic that it will pass and the governor will sign into law. However, as with all things with the legislature, nothing is certain. We remain hopeful.
Another bill that impacts families with children with autism, as well as other disabilities, would lower the TEFRA fees and provide financial relief for parents who have to use this mechanism to help fund treatment. Parents and advocates have lobbied hard with compelling stories for this relief. As of this writing the effort is still alive in both houses, but, as stated, nothing can be taken for granted.
From my perspective we have made great progress in building a coalition in the autism community. While I doubt there will ever be complete consensus, there is significant agreement among everyone that we can and must do a better job of helping families access the treatments and supports their children deserve.
Chairperson, Autism Recovery Foundation
Chairperson, Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities
The Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (MNCCD) is a broad based coalition
of advocacy and provider organizations working to change public policy to improve the lives of people with disabilities through building awareness, providing education and engaging the community.
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