Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Elevate the Spectrum for New Mexico in 2020 with ASD Supports and Services Legislation

In 2019, New Mexico passed landmark legislation for autism insurance coverage. The new law, House Bill 322, expanded coverage for autism therapies to transition-age youth and adults with autism covered by private, state-regulated health benefit plans as well as Medicaid. Enabling individuals of any age to be guaranteed coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of autism, without limitations, under state-regulated health benefit plans.

Now the state can complete the puzzle and support efforts underway for Autism Disorder programs by passing House Bill 55, Autism Disorder Supports and Services, sponsored by Representative Elizabeth "Liz" Thomson and Representative Joanne J. Ferrary.

According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control, community estimates of a positive autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis as of April 2018 are as high as 13 for every 1,000 children aged 8. ASD is about 4 times more common among boys than among girls and ASD is also reported to occur in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups.

Additionally the CDC says that Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. There is often nothing about how people with ASD look that sets them apart from other people, but people with ASD may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people. The learning, thinking, and problem-solving abilities of people with ASD can range from gifted to severely challenged. Some people with ASD need a lot of help in their daily lives; others need less.

A diagnosis of ASD now includes several conditions that used to be diagnosed separately: autistic disorder, pervasive developmental disorder, and Asperger syndrome. These conditions are now all called autism spectrum disorder.

For New Mexicans House Bill 55, Autism Disorder Supports and Services, appropriates $2.5 million from the general fund to the Departments of Health (DOH) and Children Youth and Families (CYFD) for the purpose of expanding services available in New Mexico for children, adults and families affected by autism spectrum disorders.

The $2.5 million appropriation would be used at the University of New Mexico and at New Mexico State University. The appropriation through the Dept. of Health will allow NMSU to create a regional autism office and enable crucial programs for youth and adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) not given developmental disabilities Medicaid waiver (DDWP) support.

Additional the appropriation through the Dept. of Health will allow the University of New Mexico’s Center for Development and Disability (UNM CDD) to conduct analysis and alignment of systems of care for individuals with ASD and their families, it will also provide funding to UNM CDD for youth and adults with ASD not given developmental disabilities Medicaid waiver (DDWP) support, funding for development of services to adults with ASD, and to fund autism evaluations for children. House Bill 55, Autism Disorder Supports and Services will also establish an ASD registry and be used for research into ASD at UNM CDD.

The appropriation going to the Children Youth and Families (CYFD) will develop wraparound services for children with ASD with “high acuity of need” and provide funding to UNM CDD for development of model services for individuals with “high acuity of need” ASD requiring inpatient hospitalizations, residential or group home services. Wraparound services are defined elsewhere as “Services used to help children with autism spectrum disorder work towards independence, according to legislative analysis. They provide families with the resources, techniques and interventions necessary to help children reach desired independence goals.

New Mexico has seen tremendous growth in the willingness of the legislature to support autism initiatives as well as the willingness of the administration to work with the autism community. New Mexico can Elevate the Spectrum in 2020 with ASD Supports and Services Legislation.

House Bill 55, Autism Disorder Supports and Services, is scheduled for House Health and Human Services Committee on Wednesday, January 29th 2020.

Wednesday, January 29th 2020 is also Autism Day at the Legislature, hosted by Elevate the Spectrum [https://www.facebook.com/events/556477121771903/]

Jason Barker
Elevate the Spectrum