Nineteen-year-old Eric Duquette, salutatorian at Smithfield High School in 2010 and a freshman at Rhode Island College, personifies the possibilities of early, intensive behavioral treatment for children with autism.
Duquette, who lost all language as a toddler and didn’t speak again until he was 5, took the podium in the House lounge Thursday and urged the General Assembly to pass legislation that would require commercial health-insurance carriers to cover medically validated behavioral treatments for children diagnosed with autism. Twenty-six states have passed similar legislation.
He spoke at an autism-awareness event organized by the Rhode Island Autism Coalition, which honored two legislators who have introduced the autism insurance bills for two consecutive years. They are Sen. Edward J. O’Neill, I-Lincoln, North Providence and Pawtucket; and Rep. Rep Peter G. Palumbo, D-Cranston. Both have children with autism.
While the bills are stalled in committee, O’Neill said, he is still optimistic that the legislation will pass, noting that one of the sponsors this year is Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed, D-Newport.
Autism Speaks, the nation’s largest autism science and advocacy organization, joined families across Arizona and around the country today in applauding Arizona Governor Jan Brewer for her courageous veto of Senate Bill 1593, misguided legislation that would have essentially reversed enacted autism insurance reform legislation and forced families to once again pay tens of thousands of dollars a year out-of-pocket for critical autism diagnoses and treatments -- even though they already have health insurance coverage.
“Governor Brewer showed remarkable leadership by standing up for the best interest of Arizona’s families and ensuring that Arizonans’ health care plans will continue to be regulated by Arizona law,” said Peter Bell, Autism Speaks executive vice president of programs and services. “We thank Governor Brewer for making this decision, which took incredible courage and will have an enormously positive impact on families affected by autism across the state. We also ask that the autism community at large take the time to thank Governor Brewer personally."
Autism Speaks launched a major traditional media, social media and grassroots campaign to persuade Governor Brewer to veto the bill, including a significant television ad buy. Advocates in Arizona and all across the country worked hard for two weeks contacting Governor Brewer to convince her that signing SB 1593 into law would be detrimental to both Arizona citizens and the autism community at large.