The issues connected to continued increasing numbers of people diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders and the growing need for critical services and supports - widely referred to as the “autism epidemic” – is the focus of two important public meetings this week – and also a key part of the subject matter and discussion of two other meetings also this week.
February 22nd - Senate Select Committee on Autism and Related Disorders Informational Hearing
The first meeting this week with the sole focus on persons with Autism Spectrum Disorders is an informational hearing by the State Senate Select Committee on Autism and Related Disorders, chaired by Senate President Darrell Steinberg (Democrat – Sacramento, 6th State Senate District), scheduled for February 22, Wednesday, from 10:00 AM to 12:30 PM at the State Capitol in Room 3191, on the subject of “Technology and Autism Spectrum Disorders” and how the use of technology – including “telehealth” can expand access and improve services for children and adults with that disorder and their families. For more information about the select committee go to the committee website at: http://autism.senate.ca.gov/
The issue is of particular importance with the State facing an on-going budget shortfall of close to $10 billion, and the Department of Developmental Services, the state agency that funds many of the community-based services through the 21 non-profit regional centers, used by children and adults with autism spectrum disorders, facing a $200 million reduction in State general fund spending to the developmental services budget in the 2012-2013 State Budget year, proposed by Governor Brown.
February 23rd - Department of Managed Health Care Autism Task Force To Help Implement Autism Health Insurance Mandate Bill
The second meeting with a sole focus on people with autism spectrum disorders is the meeting of the Department of Managed Health Care’s Autism Advisory Task Force, scheduled to meet February 23rd, Thursday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, at the Sacramento Convention Center, 1400 J Street, Sacramento, CA (two blocks from the State Capitol). The public can attend the meeting physically or listen in and make public comments by calling in on the following toll-free number: 1 (800) 309-2350, Conference ID: 288476 (spells AUTISM).
That task force is required by the passage and enactment of SB 946 by Sen. Steinberg, to help shape the implementation, effective July 1, 2012, of the new state law that will require private health insurance companies and health plans to cover certain behavioral intervention therapies for children and adults with autism and related disorders. The provisions of SB 946 will remain in effect until June 30, 2014 unless extended by the Legislature and Governor. The requirements or mandates in SB 946 are also linked to a not yet determined list of “essential health benefits” – meaning the minimum benefits a health plan or insurance must provide under the federal health care reform act – that the states and the federal government still must finalize and approve.
February 23rd and February 24th - Mental Health Informational Hearing and DDS Budget Workgroup Meeting Also Impacts People with Autism and Their Families
Also this week, on February 23rd, Thursday morning, upon adjournment of the Assembly floor session at the State Capitol in Room 4202, though not the focus, is an informational hearing by the Assembly Select Committee on Disabilities, chaired by Assemblymember Wes Chesbro (Democrat – Eureka, 1st Assembly District) dealing with community-based mental health issues – a subject matter that impacts thousands of children and adults with autism spectrum disorders who also have mental health needs. See below for further details about this hearing and separate CDCAN Report.
The final meeting this meeting that has some impact on people with Autism Spectrum Disorders is the Department of Developmental Services budget stakeholder workgroup meeting, scheduled for February 24th, Friday from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM in Oakland, the fifth in a series of six meetings being held in 6 different cities across the State.
About 45 to 50 persons including people with developmental disabilities who receive services or supports, family members, representatives from a wide range of provider and advocacy groups were appointed by various regional and statewide associations and advocacy organizations by an invitation from the Department of Developmental Services to receive information from the department on current levels of spending, and to provide any input or questions regarding the Governor’s proposed $200 million reduction in State general fund spending for the 2012-2013 State Budget year.
This proposed reduction number – and any actual cuts proposed for programs or services – will need the approval of the Legislature. This proposed reduction is in addition to the $100 million cut in State general fund spending to the current 2011-2012 State Budget that went into effect in January as a result of the State budget “trigger cuts” being pulled due to lower than expected revenues. The Department of Developmental Services indicated that the it can achieve for the 2011-2012 State Budget year the $100 million reduction through various higher than expected budget savings and other measures that do not require actual cuts to programs or services.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Upcoming Events in California
From the California Disability Community Action Network: