Alan Zarembo writes in The Los Angeles Times:
California lawmakers and advocates for children with autism assailed the state Department of Developmental Services during a hearing Monday over the deep racial and ethnic disparities in how it spends money on the disorder.
"Families that are already the most disadvantaged get the least," Martha Matthews, an attorney for the advocacy group Public Counsel, testified before a panel of legislators in Sacramento. "This is exactly the opposite of what it should be."
State Sen. Darrell Steinberg, who heads a committee on autism, called for legislation to provide greater accountability in the $4-billion-a-year entitlement program for people with developmental disabilities. Autism now accounts for about a quarter of the 252,000 people in the state system and 45% of all new disability cases it accepts. Budgets have not kept pace.
Steinberg ordered the hearing in response to articles in The Times documenting how obtaining help for an autistic child can require waging battle against the gatekeepers of state services. Parents with the time and resources to fight receive significantly more, resulting in enormous racial and socioeconomic disparities.
It is not uncommon for autistic children from affluent families to receive 25 hours a week of one-on-one behavioral therapy. Advocates for poorer families, on the other hand, said parents aren't necessarily even told what public services are available.