Stanley L. Swartz, Ph.D.
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
April 2, 2008

California Lawmakers Unveil Legislative Effort on Autism
Package of bills crafted based on California Legislative Blue Ribbon Commission on Autism report

SACRAMENTO, CA – Lawmakers unveil a comprehensive legislative package of eight bills to address the issues related to the rise in diagnoses of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in California. A press conference was held at the State Capitol on April 2nd at 11:00am. The bills were inspired by a report issued by the California Legislative Blue Ribbon Commission on Autism.

“This Commission was charged with providing real solutions and recommendations to improve the lives of individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and their families,” said Senate pro Tempore Don Perata (D-Oakland), who authored the resolution that created the commission (SCR 51, 2005).

The Commission consists of health experts, family members, business leaders, educators and researchers and is chaired by Sen. Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento).

“The increase in children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder affects families, schools and communities all over California,” Steinberg said. “Today this Legislature is responding strongly to the challenges this disorder poses to the State.”

After conducting extensive public hearings and town-hall meetings throughout California, the Commission submitted its findings and recommendations to the Governor and Legislature in its report: An Opportunity to Achieve Real Change for Californians with Autism Spectrum Disorders; September 2007. You can read the report at: http://senweb03.senate.ca.gov/autism/index.html

“With the broad participation of parents, families, consumers, educators, clinicians, researchers and advocates the Commission’s report and the autism legislative package provides a momentous step in forging new directions for real change,” said Dr. Barbara Firestone, Commission Vice-Chair and President & CEO of The Help Group.

The Autism legislative package includes the following bills:

SB 1563 (Sen. Perata) to provide appropriate and equitable coverage for ASD by private health plans and insurers
SB 527 (Sen. Steinberg) to improve the early identification and intervention for young children with ASD
SB 1175 (Sen. Steinberg) to expand the housing and independent living opportunities for adults with ASD
SB 1475 (Sen. Tom Torlakson) to improve the coordination of ASD services and programs between regional centers and school districts for children from birth to five years of age
SB 1364 (Sen. Gil Cedillo) to improve community awareness and outreach efforts on ASD by the California Department of Public Health
SB 1531 (Sen. Lou Correa) to improve the training and knowledge of ASD among law enforcement officers
AB 2303 (Assembly Speaker-Elect Karen Bass) to expand the credentials that would qualify teachers to educate students with ASD
AB 1872 (Asm. Joe Coto) to establish a state clearinghouse for the education of students with ASD.

The Autism Legislative Package is supported by numerous families and stakeholders such as actor Gary Cole, the parent of a child with ASD.

“The Autism Commission has not only garnered enthusiastic support from stakeholders and autism organizations, but today’s California autism legislative package brings real hope into the lives of individuals and families coping with autism throughout our state and nation,” said Cole.

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), commonly referred to as autism, are brain based developmental disabilities characterized by language/communication problems, impaired social interaction and repetitive rigid behaviors and interests. Once considered rare, autism is the fastest growing serious developmental disability and is more prevalent than juvenile diabetes, childhood cancer and pediatric AIDS combined.

Autism now affects 1 in every 150 children in the United States; every 20 minutes another child is diagnosed. Autism is four times more common in boys than girls and occurs in children of all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. Nationally, the diagnosis of autism has increased tenfold in the last decade. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have called autism a national public health crisis. The economic impact of autism is estimated to exceed $90 billion annually.

(For a detailed description of each bill, please see below)


AUTISM LEGISLATIVE PACKAGE

SB 527 – Early Identification of ASD (Sen. Steinberg)
• Pilot project (three or more counties) established by DDS to establish best practices for the effective identification, assessment and treatment of children with ASD and other developmental delays
• DDS will establish an Autism Early Identification Advisory Committee (AEIAC) to implement innovative approaches, promote collaboration/communication, utilize new telehealth strategies, improve professional development, provide appropriate compensation, and increase public awareness
• DDS and AEIAC shall report to the Legislature by July 1, 2011 with an evaluation and recommendations based on the outcomes of the pilot project
• Will be funded by non-general fund sources

SB 1475 – Pilot on Transitional Services for Early ASD Treatment (Sen. Torlakson)
• Pilot project (three or more counties) by DDS to improve the transition of children with ASD as they transition at three years of age from regional centers to school districts
• This project shall identify and implement existing models of excellence and best practices that will establish seamless, coordinated, and integrated programs between regional centers and local school districts for the. identification, assessment and treatment of children with ASD and other developmental delays from birth to five years of age
• DDS shall establish an Early Autism Intervention and Transition Advisory Council that shall advise and assist the department in the pursuance of this legislation
• DDS and the Advisory Council shall provide a report and recommendations to the Legislature by June 1, 2012
• Will be funded by non-general fund sources

SB 1563 – Health Insurance Coverage of ASD (Sen. Perata)
• The Department of Managed Health Care and the Department of Insurance shall review guidelines and standards on the screening, diagnosis, assessment, and treatment of autism and other pervasive developmental disorders
• The Department of Managed Health Care and the Department of Insurance shall develop recommendations by October 1, 2009, on ensuring that health plans and insurers provide appropriate and equitable coverage for those illnesses
• These recommendations would be consistent with the protections provided under the existing California Mental Parity Law, which specifically identifies ASD and PDD.

SB 1364 – Addressing the Public Health Crisis of ASD in California (Sen. Cedillo)
• Legislative intent to declare and establish that that ASD is a public health crisis within California.
• The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has been established to improve access to health care services
• The Legislature directs the CDPH to establish an Autism Spectrum Disorders Advisory Council
• The Legislature directs CDHP to explore and provide recommendations on establishing a pilot project for a voluntary centralized registry of individuals with ASD

AB 2302 – Expanding Credentials for Special Education Teachers to Educate Students with ASD (Asm. Bass)
• Current law requires the Commission on Teacher Credentialing to report to the legislature and the Governor on the existing process and requirements for obtaining and special education credential and to recommend modification to enhance and expedite those procedures.
• Authorizes the holder of a level 1 education specialist credential who is authorized to provide instruction to individuals with mild and moderate disabilities to provide instruction to pupils with ASD

AB 1872 – State Clearinghouse for the Education of Students with ASD (Asm. Coto)
• Based on the recommendations of the Superintendent’s Autism Commission, CDE shall establish the California ASD Clearinghouse in order to provide evidence-based recommendations and practices for the education of pupils with ASD
• Information provided by the Clearinghouse shall be targeted to a broad range of audiences and shall include the following goals:
• Internet web site on evidence-based practices
• Creating a “toolbox” of resources
• Featuring demonstration projects
• Superintendent of Education shall convene a Clearinghouse Oversight Committee to represent major stakeholders for the education of pupils with ASD and to perform the following:
• Establish criteria, guidelines, and processes
• Select anchor documents and resources
• Provide advice and recommendations
• Develop online rating systems and periodic surveys

SB 1175 – Expansion of Housing for ASD (Sen. Steinberg)
• Expands the existing authority that has been granted to the Bay Area Housing Consortium Regional Centers to all regional centers throughout the state
• Authorizes all regional centers to enter into negotiations and contracts with certain specified entities for the payment of lease or leases on housing for regional center clients pursuant to the fulfillment of the following stipulations provided for in this act:
• That the housing and services are integrated with individuals without disabilities
• Approval of proposed ownership and management by regional center & DDS
• Reasonable costs
• Proposal includes approved transfer of property to non-profit approved by regional center
• Bill calls for review of contracts by California Housing Finance Agency and the Department of Housing and Community Development

SB 1531 – Police Officer Training on ASD (Sen. Correa)
• The Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training shall create and make available on DVD and electronically a course on how to recognize and interact with people with ASD
• This course will be made available to peace officers, firefighters, ambulance attendants and other emergency workers
• Possible voluntary identification card
• Possible voluntary electronic data base linked to DMV






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