[Governor Brian] Sandoval's proposal for balancing the budget without raising taxes eliminates one autism program, which serves 174 children. That move would save the state $800,000. The program already had lost its federal funding of $1.4 million. The budget also cuts $800,000, or 25 percent, of the funding for a second program, which now serves 110 children. Less than 90 children could be helped under that scenario.
Under both programs, parents can get up to $1,500 a month to pay for treatment, with money dropping to less than $800 as the child grows older.
"We should be giving more children help, not less, particularly when you consider we have thousands of children with autism in Nevada," said Jan Crandy, a member of the Nevada Commission on Autism Spectrum Disorders. "It's going to cost us much more not to provide it. Millions and millions of dollars."
Research has found that prevalence of autism is about 1 in every 110 births in the United States, translating to about 6,000 youngsters with autism in Nevada today.
Almost half the children with autism who received extensive early intervention go on to lead independent lives as adults, according to a 1987 study by autism expert Ivor Lovaas.
Without that treatment, more than 90 percent will need lifelong support from taxpayers, which can run up to $6 million per individual, experts say.
A third state program that serves children with many different special needs, including the autistic, would see an increase under Sandoval's budget, from $22 million to $24.5 million by 2013. It's an early intervention program providing up to seven hours of therapy a week for children up to age 3, but not necessarily Applied Behavior Analysis treatment.
Two bills in the Assembly, one sponsored by Melissa Woodbury, R-Las Vegas, and the other by James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas, would keep funding in place for the same number of autistic children. So far, neither has said how they would pay for that. Woodbury also has introduced another bill that would track the effectiveness of autism programs.
The Legislature passed an Ohrenschall-sponsored bill last session to force insurance companies to guarantee treatment of children with autism, particularly in the critical early years. But those mandates don't apply to about 40 percent of plans, which fall outside the purview of state regulation.
Among the plans that can ignore the law are those covering some government workers and collective bargaining trusts.
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Sunday, March 13, 2011
At the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Paul Harasim writes: