Thursday, July 10, 2014

Drowning Leading Cause of Death for Children With Autism

As a mom who lives in California, where there is seemingly a pool in every backyard, a key reason we purchased our home was it did not have a pool. I don't have a statistic on wandering compared to non-wandering related drowning’s, either way it’s clear we have to tackle both. My son is a wanderer, actually he's a seeker. He intentionally finds ways to escape our house in search of things he wants, and he has ZERO safety awareness. By zero I mean Nick has the safety awareness of a two year old. The difference is when we see a 2 year old alone we all stop and help. When people see my son alone they just stare.
The good news is I know this about him and I've put systems in place to protect him. My neighbors who have looked up to find Nick in their house UNINVITED, know it too. Their awareness creates a safety net.
If you have a pool I recommend a highly secured pool area, and I've asked my neighbors with pools to lock their gates.  
Articles like this are not new news to parents who have children with autism, it's just confirmation people are listening and getting the word out. 

Drowning Leading Cause of Death for Children With Autism
Researchers at the University of Sciences found that drowning is a major cause of death among children with autism.
Families with autistic children are most concerned about water safety. The study led by Varleisha Gibbs, occupational therapy professor at the University, found that autistic children get overstimulated in crowded areas and escape into unsafe environment.

Autism is a lifelong neurodevelopmental disorder that impairs social interaction, verbal and non-verbal communication and forms of repetitive or restricted behavior. The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention reveals that 1 in 68 children have autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It is five times more common in boys and costs at least $17,000 more every year to care for a child with ASD.

"Among the plethora of concerns for families dealing with autism, includes addressing water safety practices as early as possible in a child's life," said Dr. Gibbs. "Although water safety is a concern for all parents, children with autism are especially at a higher risk for drowning because they may seek isolation by fleeing to unfamiliar territories."

According to the National Autism Association, accidental drowning led to 90 percent of the total U.S. deaths reported in children with autism of age 14 and younger in 2009-2011.  Also, 50 percent of the children with autism try to escape into safe environment which is nearly four times more than children without autism.

Some of the safety tips researchers suggest are: enrolling children in swimming and water safety lessons as early as possible, using video narratives to discuss water safety and if they respond well to visual cues then signs like STOP or DO NOT ENTER on the doors that open to outside must be used.

Following this will help parents to relax and enjoy the summer with their children who are diagnosed with autism.
"Swimming and aquatic therapy is actually a wonderful sport for children with autism because it can address many of their body's sensory and motor needs," said Dr. Gibbs. "By preparing and communicating with your child with autism, family, and friends, summer trips and activities can be much less stressful and more enjoyable."

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

11-Year-Old Boy With Autism Kept Inside Dog Cage

My initial response to this story was sadness, and horror.  Then I read it, and now all I feel is shame. This is what can happen when families don't have enough support. As a so called "Civil" society we're all to blame. Clearly this family lacked information, resources and support...sad for everyone.

The parents of an 11-year-old boy with autism so severe he cannot speak were arrested after police allegedly found him living in a dog kennel inside a home in Anaheim, authorities said Wednesday. http://ktla.com/2014/07/02/parents-arrested-after-11-year-old-autistic-boy-found-living-in-cage-anaheim-police/
Loi Vu, 40, (left) and Tracy Trang Le, 35, were booked on suspicion of felony child endangerment and false imprisonment. (Credit: Anaheim Police Department)
Loi Vu, 40, (left) and Tracy Trang Le, 35, were booked on suspicion of felony child endangerment and false imprisonment. (Credit: Anaheim Police Department)
Officers were called to a residence in the 1300 block of Garrett Street (map) at about 6:15 p.m. Tuesday to help Child Protective Services investigators who had received a tip that a young boy was living inside a cage, according to Lt. Bob Dunn with the Anaheim Police Department.
After talking with the parents, officers went inside the home and discovered a fairly large cage, described as a “large dog kennel” containing a mattress, the Police Department stated in a news release.
It appeared the parents had been keeping their son inside it, possibly because the boy was prone to violent outbursts, Dunn said. He emphasized the investigation was in its preliminary stages.
An 11-year-old boy was removed from a home and placed into Child Protective Services after he was allegedly found living in a cage. (Credit: OnScene TV)
An 11-year-old boy was removed from a home and placed into Child Protective Services after he was allegedly found living in a cage. (Credit: OnScene TV)
“Perhaps, as a part of his autism, he would have outbursts on occasion. As he’s grown older, the parents had difficulty adapting to these outburst and controlling them,” Dunn said.
“Putting him in that cage may have been a way for them to try to, in their way, control what was going on,” he said.
The boy appeared clean and to have been well cared for otherwise, and did not have any visible injuries, according to Dunn.
Investigators removed the "kennel" from the  home on July 1, 2014. (Credit: OnScene TV)
Investigators removed the “kennel” from the home on July 1, 2014. (Credit: OnScene TV)
The parents — identified as Tracy Trang Le, 35, and Loi Vu, 40 — have been arrested and booked on suspicion of felony child endangerment and false imprisonment, Dunn said.
A neighbor said the family seemed normal and caring, and that the boy appeared in good health.
“He appeared to look fine. He didn’t look to be abused or anything,” neighbor Bob Emerson said. “That’s why the whole idea of the cage is hard for me to understand — why he would need to be in a cage?”
It was not immediately clear how long the boy had allegedly been kept in the cage, which Dunn described as approximately 4 1/2 feet long and 6 feet tall.
The child’s autism is so severe that he is unable to communicate, Dunn said. Police planned to consult doctors to see if there was a way the boy could share his experience.
The boy was taken into protective custody, as were both of his siblings, according to Dunn.
“In this particular case, placing your child in a cage to try and control some behavior may not have been the best course of action… and out of this may come soon good,” he said. “Maybe this family will get some of the assistance that they need.”
As an investigation into the incident continued, police said they would be interviewing other people who lived in the home, including family members and another family who rented a room out of the house.
Child Protective Services was also investigating the boy’s living conditions.
The parents speak Vietnamese and limited English, Dunn said; a translator assisted in the police investigation.
Another family rents a home at the house; they were out of town during the arrests, Dunn said.
KTLA’s Justin Burton, Chip Yost and Melissa Pamer contributed to this report.

A Gift of Calm - enjoy!

I don't know about any of you, but in my world if I didn't make it my business to find joy every day I'd go crazy. Not tiny crazy, we’re talking yelling, manic or comatose in a corner curled up in a fetal position type crazy. Hence, I'm highly motivated to find joy! To make sure I do, I keep my bar low. I start by being thankful I woke up on the right side of the dirt! Then I look for joy in the things that are always here, things I can always rely on. For me it's the sky. I take pictures from planes, on hikes, laying down flat on my back looking up.  I love the sky, I love how it’s never the same and it's always there for me!  


I took these pictures on my cell phone while hiking in a nearby canyon, with Nick. I use them as screen savers and they calm me. Maybe they will do the same for you. Feel free to snatch one or all if you're so inclined.








Tuesday, July 1, 2014

2 of 2 Vaccines - Wakefield Proven Right



Controversial Doctor and Autism Media Channel Director proven right - MMR Vaccine Causes Autism & Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Watch the Video 

http://healthimpactnews.com/2013/new-published-study-verifies-andrew-wakefields-research-on-autism-again/

References
Two landmark events – a government concession in the US Vaccine Court, and a groundbreaking scientific paper – confirm that physician, scientist, and Autism Media Channel [AMC] Director, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, and the parents were right all along.
In a recently published December 13, 2012 vaccine court ruling, hundreds of thousands of dollars were awarded to Ryan Mojabi, [i] whose parents described how “MMR vaccinations,” caused a “severe and debilitating injury to his brain, diagnosed as Autism Spectrum Disorder (‘ASD’).”
Later the same month, the government suffered a second major defeat when young Emily Moller from Houston won compensation following vaccine-related brain injury that, once again, involved MMR and resulted in autism. The cases follow similar successful petitions in the Italian and US courts (including Hannah Poling [ii], Bailey Banks [iii], Misty Hyatt [iv], Kienan Freeman [v], Valentino Bocca [vi], and Julia Grimes [vii]) in which the governments conceded or the court ruled that vaccines had caused brain injury. In turn, this injury led to an ASD diagnosis. MMR vaccine was the common denominator in these cases.
And today, scientists and physicians from Wake Forest University, New York, and Venezuela, reported findings that not only confirm the presence of intestinal disease in children with autism and intestinal symptoms, but also indicate that this disease may be novel. [viii] Using sophisticated laboratory methods Dr. Steve Walker and his colleagues endorsed Wakefield’s original findings by showing molecular changes in the children’s intestinal tissues that were highly distinctive and clearly abnormal.
From 1998 Dr. Wakefield discovered and reported intestinal disease in children with autism. [ix] Based upon the medical histories of the children he linked their disease and their autistic regression to the Measles, Mumps, Rubella (MMR vaccine). He has since been subjected to relentless personal and professional attacks in the media, and from governments, doctors and the pharmaceutical industry. In the wake of demonstrably false and highly damaging allegations of scientific fraud by British journalist Brian Deer and the British Medical Journal, Dr. Wakefield is pursuing defamation proceedings against them in Texas. [x]
While repeated studies from around the world confirmed Wakefield’s bowel disease in autistic children [xi] and his position that safety studies of the MMR are inadequate, [xii] Dr. Wakefield ’s career has been destroyed by false allegations.  Despite this he continues to work tirelessly to help solve the autism catastrophe.
The incidence of autism has rocketed to a risk of around 1 in 25 for children born today. Mean while governments, absent any explanation and fearing loss of public trust, continue to deny the vaccine autism connection despite the concessions in vaccine court.
Speaking from his home in Austin, Texas, Dr. Wakefield said, 
There can be very little doubt that vaccines can and do cause autism. In these children, the evidence for a n adverse reaction involving brain injury following the MMR that progresses to an autism diagnosis is compelling. It’s now a question of the body count. The parents’ story was right all along. Governments must stop playing with words while children continue to be damaged . My hope is that recognition of the intestinal disease in these children will lead to the relief of their suffering. This is long , long overdue .”
Dr. Andrew Wakefield is a best selling author, [xi] founder of the autism research non profit Strategic Autism Initiative (SAI), and Director of the Autism Media Channel.
and
[iv] Vaccine Case: An Exception Or A Precedent? February 11, 2009 3:20 PM CBS News By Sharyl Attkisson
[ix] Wakefield AJ. Callous Disregard: Autism and Vaccines – The Truth Behind a Tragedy. 2010.Skyhorse Publishing, NY, NY. Chapter 1, footnotes 1 & 4, p.20
[x] For Affidavits see www.DrWakefieldJusticeFund.org
[xi] Wakefield AJ. Waging War on the Autistic Child. 2012 Skyhorse Publishing NY, NY. Chapter 2, footnotes 2 11, pp. 255 256
[xii] Jefferson T et al, Unintended events following immunization with MMR: a systematic review. Vaccine 21 (2003) 3954–3960
Here is a list of 28 studies from around the world that support Dr. Wakefield’s research:
  1. The Journal of Pediatrics November 1999; 135(5):559-63
  2. The Journal of Pediatrics 2000; 138(3): 366-372
  3. Journal of Clinical Immunology November 2003; 23(6): 504-517
  4. Journal of Neuroimmunology 2005 
  5. Brain, Behavior and Immunity 1993; 7: 97-103
  6. Pediatric Neurology 2003; 28(4): 1-3
  7. Neuropsychobiology 2005; 51:77-85
  8. The Journal of Pediatrics May 2005;146(5):605-10
  9. Autism Insights 2009; 1: 1-11
  10. Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology February 2009; 23(2): 95-98
  11. Annals of Clinical Psychiatry 2009:21(3): 148-161
  12. Journal of Child Neurology June 29, 2009; 000:1-6
  13. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders March 2009;39(3):405-13
  14. Medical Hypotheses August 1998;51:133-144.
  15. Journal of Child Neurology July 2000; ;15(7):429-35
  16. Lancet. 1972;2:883–884.
  17. Journal of Autism and Childhood Schizophrenia January-March 1971;1:48-62
  18. Journal of Pediatrics March 2001;138:366-372.
  19. Molecular Psychiatry 2002;7:375-382.
  20. American Journal of Gastroenterolgy April 2004;598-605.
  21. Journal of Clinical Immunology November 2003;23:504-517.
  22. Neuroimmunology April 2006;173(1-2):126-34.
  23. Prog. Neuropsychopharmacol Biol. Psychiatry December 30 2006;30:1472-1477.
  24. Clinical Infectious Diseases September 1 2002;35(Suppl 1):S6-S16
  25. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 2004;70(11):6459-6465
  26. Journal of Medical Microbiology October 2005;54:987-991
  27. Archivos venezolanos de puericultura y pediatrĂ­a 2006; Vol 69 (1): 19-25.
  28. Gastroenterology. 2005:128 (Suppl 2);Abstract-303

Sunday, June 29, 2014

1 of 2 - Vaccines - Wakefield's a Quack


It Took Studying 25,782,500 Kids To Begin To Undo The Damage Caused By 1 Doctor



Once upon a time, a scientist named Dr. Andrew Wakefield published in the medical journal The Lancet that he had discovered a link between autism and vaccines. After years of controversy and making parents mistrust vaccines, along with collecting $674,000 from lawyers who would benefit from suing vaccine makers, it was discovered he had made the whole thing up. The Lancet publicly apologized and reported that further investigation led to the discovery that he had fabricatedeverything.
In the intervening years, millions have been spent on studying this further to see if there was anything that could connect autism and vaccines. This is what they found. http://www.upworthy.com/it-took-studying-25782500-kids-to-begin-to-undo-the-damage-caused-by-1-doctor

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Half of All Autistic Kids Will Run Away

This post is not for parents of kids with autism, it's for everyone else! This article paints a clear picture about "eloping" or "wandering" and our kids. Please consider forwarding or re-posting in our effort to create a community safety net for our kids through education.   

Our kids don't have to be a statistic. 
Half of All Autistic Kids Will Run Away, Tragedy Often Follows

way from home before their 17th birthday. Many of them die, often by drowning.
Within hours one day in April, two children went missing hundreds of miles apart from each other.
On the surface they appear to have little in common.
Angelo Messineo is a 16-year-old from Georgia. He was found alive on a horse farm four days after he disappeared from school on April 16. Alyvia Navarro, 3, of Wareham, Mass., was pronounced dead hours after she was reported missing, drowned in a pond near her grandmother's home, on the same day.
They are just two of the thousands of children who went missing last month.
But Angelo and Alyvia have one thing in common, and it's a trait shared with at least one child who goes missing every day in America. They are autistic.
Nearly half of all children with autism will run away and potentially go missing at least once before their 17th birthday, according to a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Of those who run away, what clinicians call "eloping," many will be found dead.

The numbers alone present a challenge for law enforcement authorities, who regularly rank searches for missing children among the most difficult work they do.
But finding children with autism -- who shirk when their names are called out, who run away at the sound of police sirens, who are afraid of the dogs sent to find them, and who naturally are comforted by burrowing and hiding -- makes a hard job even harder, investigators say.
One in 50 children is diagnosed annually with autism, a spectrum of neurodevelopment disorders marked by problems with social interaction and communication, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. As the number of children who are diagnosed increases, so too does the number of kids who run off, leaving rescuers to learn quickly how best to handle a unique set of challenges.
The stories of Angelo and Alyvia, and dozens of children like them, present two sides of a phenomenon still not entirely understood.
On the one hand, autistic children are more likely to run away than unaffected children. When they do runaway, they are more likely to die than unaffected children. And more often than not, 91 percent of the time, those deaths are a result of drowning. But what is so perplexing to researchers and rescuers are the stories like Angelo's. Stories of almost super-human rates of survival for young children with developmental disabilities, who manage to stay alive for days often in the wilderness and against staggering odds.
"It's a mystery," said Robert G. Lowery Jr. of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. "Time and again, we see cases where autistic children live longer and survive in harsher settings than unaffected children. We don't really know why. It might be that these children with autism have a diminished sense of fear, but it's astonishing."
Stories like Alyvia's are also all too common.
The 3-year-old girl was there, at her grandmother's side at their home at the Lakeside Trailer Park in Wareham, Mass., and a moment later she was gone. Twenty-five minutes later, her grandmother Valerie Navarro called the police. Police, fire, EMS, K-9 units and the nearby harbormaster began a search for the girl, who was discovered an hour later, according to Wareham police.
A patrol found the girl in a pond near her grandmother's home, and she was evacuated via helicopter to a hospital in Boston where she was later pronounced dead.
Girls More Likely to Die
Calls to Alyvia's grandmother Valerie Navarro were not returned.
Boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed with autism, but girls, like Alyvia, are twice more likely than boys to die after an elopement, according to Lori McIlwain, executive director of the National Autism Association, which tracks eloping incidents and deaths.
In 2012, 195 autistic children went missing, according to the autism association, which only tracks those incidents reported by the media.
Between 2009 and 2011, 91 percent of autistic children younger than 14 died in drowning incidents after elopements. More than two-thirds of those deaths occurred in small natural bodies of water like creeks, lakes, rivers and ponds.
"Oftentimes, children who go missing are low or nonverbal," McIlwain said. "But they know where a pond is. They see it from the car going to and from school every day, but they can't tell mom or dad that they want go to the pond and play. They think about it and when they have the chance, they bolt."
It's a story all too familiar to Beth Martin, a single mother with three kids, whose 7-year-old daughter Savannah drowned in a pond near her Lawton, Okla., home in 2011.
"My daughter loved Ramen noodles," Martin said, remembering the Sunday morning that her daughter died. "I knew I had exactly four minutes. Typically, she would stare for four minutes, watching the noodles cook. I popped my head outside to tell my oldest, who's 11, to watch my youngest, who's 2, because I was going to run to the bathroom. I thought it was safe to go to bathroom."
'I Couldn't Get Them Both Out of the Water'
Before the noodles finished cooking, Savannah and her younger brother were gone.
"They both were missing," Martin said. "I asked the oldest where they went, but he didn't know. I panicked and looked all over the house and yard. I kept calling their names. I ran to the highway and then to our neighbors to ask if they had seen them. I asked my son to wait by the house and he came running to say he could hear them screaming."
By the time Martin made it to the half-filled pond on the edge of her property, Savannah was under the water. Her younger brother, who had been wearing a padded bicycle helmet, was kept barely afloat by its buoyancy.
"I couldn't get them both out of the water. … I started to panic and the neighbor jumped in to pull them out," Martin remembered. "I just collapsed after that."
Martin was a conscientious mother. When Savannah was born, doctors told her that her daughter would never talk or say, "I love you, mommy." Martin worked with her religiously, and the girl had begun talking. She even knew the lyrics to her favorite Taylor Swift songs.
She had enrolled Savannah in kindergarten, registered her for swim lessons, was looking to install alarms in case she ever ran off, and made a point to teach her daughter the boundaries on the property.
"I thought I had spoken with all kinds of experts about raising a child with Savannah's needs. But I was never told about wandering or about the likelihood of drowning. No expert ever told me that," Martin said.
In that way, Martin is like the majority of parents raising children with autism.
Sixty percent of parents are unaware of the likelihood that their child will elope or the subsequent risks of death, according to a survey by the National Autism Association.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children works with law enforcement agencies across the country to train cops on how best to search for children with autism.
Deaths Are Quick and Quiet
"We make recommendations to law enforcement about things they should be doing immediately," said Lee Manning, a former Massachusetts state trooper and now a consultant for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
"[Police] have to respond very seriously and not waste any time. One of the things we strongly recommend is to get first responders, even neighbors, dispatched to local bodies of water right away," said Manning a member of Team Adam, a nationwide rapid response team of retired cops that helps law enforcement on the most difficult missing children cases.
Tragedies like the deaths of Savannah and Alyvia rarely make the front pages of newspapers or the morning television programs.
Their deaths are quick and quiet. But there is another class of autistic elopers who beat the odds with such astonishing results that law enforcement officials and rescuers are studying them to learn how best to search for runaways in the future.
On the same day Alyvia went missing, so did Angelo Messineo.
Angelo is a 16-year-old boy with a severe form of autism. A ward of the state, he is nonverbal and prone to violent outbursts. He "bolted from school after some sort of incident" in Lithonia, Ga., according to investigators.
Police scoured the woods of DeKalb County, Ga., for four days with few clues. Angelo was found April 20 on a horse farm 14 miles from where he was last seen. He was identified by police after an altercation with other teenagers.
He was taken to a nearby hospital and treated for dehydration.
Calls for comment to the DeKalb County School District were referred to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
'They Tend to Burrow Down and Hide'
Unaffected children tend to panic, they walk in loops, they take dangerous risks in an attempt to save themselves, but children with autism tend to "have a diminished sense of fear," Lowery of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children said. "There's a different search criteria for children with autism. They tend to burrow down and hide. We don't know if it's because they fear searchers or if it's a kind of game. They seem to realize the peril they're in," he added
Two of the largest missing children searches in recent years involved kids with autism.
In 2010, 11-year-old Nadia Bloom was found by a volunteer after spending four days in an alligator-infested swamp in Florida. She was dehydrated and covered in insect bites.
In 2011, the largest manhunt in Virginia history took place more than six days as volunteers and rescuers scoured a dense forest looking for 8-year-old Robert Wood Jr., who ran off while visiting a state Civil War park with his father.
Robert was found alive by a volunteer, who has remained anonymous even to the boy's family, in a quarry about a mile from where he went missing. When he was found, he was in a fetal ball and burrowed in the dirt.
The search for Robert has become an important model for rescuers who conduct searches for children with autism.
"We knew never to take him where there was a pond," his grandmother Norma Williams said. "Like many autistic children, Robert is fearless. He doesn't feel pain. He doesn't fear heights. He doesn't fear water, but he can't swim. He'll jump off just about anything."
Many of the things that attract autistic children, often to their demise, were in the park trails that connected to rivers, roads and railroad tracks.
For five nights, Williams camped outside the park in her truck praying and waiting for news of Robert.
"I dropped to my knees when they told me he was alive and an investigator helped to get me back up. I couldn't stop crying," she said. "Robert's feet were so swollen, his shoes were stuck in mud, he had curled up in a ravine when the temperature dropped and it began to rain."
Since his rescue, Robert's family has allowed the local sheriff to outfit him with a radio anklet similar to those given to prisoners on house arrest, so he can be tracked if he runs away in the future.
"People have to understand autistic children aren't like other children," Williams said. "They're special. They run when they want and do what they want. And just because they can't speak doesn't mean they're not thinking things.
"If you went to those woods, you'd see they're so dense the light doesn't come through. There's coyotes and snakes and spiders.
"How did he survive? How do they survive? If you don't believe in God, come see Robert."



Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Telling Single Moms They Are Fathers Too Doesn't Help Our Daughters or the Absent Dad Crisis!

I am a mom who does all the parenting. I am not alone I am just like 86% of the divorced parents raising children with ASD.  Yes, my friends and others say “Happy Father’s Day, Mom!”  For years I thought wow it’s true, I’m both parents so this is my day too.  Then I thought maybe we should just have a parent’s day.  Why not have a day dedicated to celebrating anyone who parents and traditional roles be damned!  If you parent, you get recognized. I mean, isn't it the constant delivery of love, guidance and support we give our kids that’s being celebrated and not so much who gave it?  I used to think so, but not anymore.

This year, I changed her mind. Although a well intentioned gesture, it hit me that telling single moms we are fathers too does not help the crisis so many of us single moms are no left in, and it doesn't encourage men to step in and step up. As much as this hardworking mother found it had to accept at first, I don't think Father’s Day is not for single mothers. This day is designed for the men who embrace their roles as dads. Dads who stay, dads who make a difference need to be celebrated, and if there are fewer men showing up to be counted, so be it.  The truth is there are great men out there, who are dedicated dads or granddads and our children need to know they exist. As a mom, I owe it to my son and especially my daughter to teach her, that no matter her father’s choices, there are good men in the world instead of me unintentionally teaching her to expect so little.  

So next year - instead of minimizing the holiday, crying about my absent dad , and my children’s absent dad – I’m going to find a place where my children can watch a dedicated dad in action.  If I can’t find a family open to sharing their dad on this special day I’ll find a strong man who is loving and able to show my kids that men can be wonderful.  That's the reality I want my children to believe in. :) 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Medi-Cal Funding For ABA Fails

Description: http://www.autismspeaks.org/sites/default/files/images/government_affairs/ca.stein_.jpg
Senate President pro
Tem Darrell Steinberg
Medi-Cal Funding For ABA Fails, But New Option Emerges
DHCS directed to add behavioral health treatment to state's Medicaid program, consult with stakeholders
SACRAMENTO (June 13, 2014) -- A $50 million appropriation sought for Medi-Cal to provide behavioral health treatment for autism failed to make the final cut in California's state budget negotiations. But the Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) will be directed to incorporate the treatment in Medi-Cal, which is the state's Medicaid program, and request the Legislature for an appropriation.    "We are disappointed that this appropriation failed, depriving hundreds of California children with autism with access to medically necessary treatment that can make an enormous improvement in their quality of life," said Kristin Jacobson, state policy chair for Autism Speaks. "This is particularly frustrating given the acknowledgment by at least two state agencies that delaying treatment causes irreparable harm.         "However, we take heart in the Legislature's directive to DHCS to right this wrong by building the benefit into Medi-Cal," she added. "We commend Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (left) for his continued leadership on behalf of the California autism community." The issue arose in 2013 when the Healthy Families program was shuttered, resulting in the transfer of thousands of children into Medi-Cal. Children who were receiving Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) behavioral treatment in Healthy Families lost the service when they entered Medi-Cal.   An attempt was made in the recently concluded state budget negotiations between the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown to add a $50 million Medi-Cal appropriation to restore the coverage, but it failed to make the final agreement. In its place, behavioral health treatment was determined to be a Medi-Cal benefit and DCHS, which administers the program, was directed to start the administrative process of including it.   That process will require outreach to federal Medicaid authorities as well as stakeholders. DCHS would need to seek statutory authority on how to implement the new benefit, and determine eligibility criteria, provider participation criteria, utilization controls and a delivery system structure. The department would be required to develop an appropriations request, conditioned on assurances of federal financial participation.    The Legislature directed DHCS to add the benefit when it is federally required.   "We believe ABA coverage is already required under Medicaid given successful lawsuits in other states, such as Florida, and the federal government's recent approval of ABA benefits added by Louisiana and Washington state," Jacobson said. "The Louisiana and Washington plans now cover behavioral health treatment as a benefit under EPSDT (Early Periodic, Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment).    "EPSDT benefits may not vary from state to state, so if the benefit is valid in one state it should be required in all states," she said.