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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Bill passed to provide autism therapists

By RON JENKINS

Associated Press Writer

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) -- A Republican plan setting standards for health professionals to treat autism passed the state House on Thursday, a week after a committee controlled by the GOP killed a bill to require insurance companies to cover the disorder.

Rep. Kris Steele, R-Shawnee, said there is a lack of therapists in Oklahoma to treat autism. He said his bill will create a network of training to increase the number of autism therapists.

"The most important move we can make right now is to increase the number of specialists trained to treat children with autism," Steele said.

No lawmakers opposed the plan, but several questioned how much good it will do if insurance companies are not required to cover autism diagnosis and treatment.

Last week, a committee controlled by the House Republican majority defeated a bill to mandate autism coverage. Families with autistic children have tried to no avail for two years to get mandated coverage.

Reps. Mike Brown, D-Tahlequah, and Joe Dorman, D-Rush Springs, said Steele's legislation is a step in the right direction, but questioned if it does enough to help families with autistic children.

"They face greater challenges not addressed by this bill, such as paying for costly treatment for their children," Brown said.

"Since many insurance companies don't cover autism, even families who can afford private insurance may not be able to afford treatment. So how will these new providers afford to stay in Oklahoma?"

"My greatest concern is that without a way to ensure these providers a mechanism for payment, we'll experience a brain drain and lose them to other states," Dorman said.

"Training more autism providers is an excellent step in the right direction, but I am concerned especially for people in rural areas that they will still be unable to find autism specialists or pay for their services," he added.

The bill sets up a licensing procedure for autism specialists with the Developmental Disabilities Services Division of the Department of Human Services. Therapists must be certified by the National Behavior Analyst Certification Board.

The measure provides training for treatment of children with autism as part of the Sooner Start program, which provides early intervention and treatment for children with disabilities and developmental problems.

2 comments:

throughtheeyesofautism said...

I know I should be happy to hear that something passed in the name of autism. However, I am still concerned.

Perhaps, I heard wrong, but I thought OK was in dire need of behavioral specialists?

And unless I heard this incorrectly too, OK doesn't have people enrolling in schools to become behavioral specialists.

This leads me to ponder...was this bill passed as a means to insult the autism community's intelligence?

Again.. it's great that something was passed, but insurance companies won't give a rat's tuckus because they're not required to ante up for these services (no, thanks to these same lawmakers). {sigh}

Anyhoo, all we can do is march ahead...

Let me know what I can do to help you and the cause, Wayne!

Adonya Wong
Author | Autism Blogger | Twitterer

Wayne Rohde said...

The bill that was passed out of the House creates a state licensure board for BCBA's.

Several House members claim that the bill also creates more therapists. IT DOES NOT. The autism community helped create legislation and a masters level curriculum at UCO to train and develop students to sit for the national board certification.

What the House bill does is give some political cover to members to say that they want to develop therapists in the state before a mandate is passed. That is nothing more than a stall. All we are doing is training a lot of students and then they will move to another state so they can get paid for their service.