AB 1231 and AB 1232 were heard in Assembly Committee on Human Services, both passing with votes of 6-0. AB 1231 [sponsored by the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD)],authorizes the use of tele-health and tele-dentistry as treatment options within the State’s regional center system for developmental disability services. This will help ensure that Californians with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other developmental disabilities have access to the services they require. ASD is the fastest growing developmental disability in California, affecting approximately two-thirds of all new consumers entering the State’s regional center system. As autism prevalence increases, innovative treatment models are needed to increase access to critical intervention services. This is not only beneficial for families living in remote or medically underserved parts of the state, but also because people with ASD experience a range of conditions that can interfere with the delivery of services in a traditional setting. Tele-health and tele-dentistry offer those with ASD the opportunity to interface with professionals in a preferred setting, such as their home or school, accompanied by professionals who can facilitate the interaction.
AB 1232 [sponsored by Autism Care & Treatment Today (ACT Today!)] seeks to ensure that California’s regional center system of developmental disability services is meeting the needs of an increasingly diverse consumer population. According to the “Preliminary Report by the Taskforce on Equity and Diversity for Regional Center Autism Services,” prepared by the Senate Select Committee on Autism and Related Disorders, many California families due to linguistic and cultural barriers lack access to vital behavioral therapy services. The State has had a quality assessment program in place for its regional center system for more than ten years, though it does not collect data on cultural and linguistic competency of services. That means that as the state grows more diverse, it is lacking important information related to the equitable provision and utilization of state services. AB 1232 addresses this critical issue in a cost-effective manner, gathering the data needed to ensure California’s developmentally disabled are being served in an equitable manner.In The Desert Sun, Pérez writes:
The task force found that many California families — because of barriers related to language, culture, education level and/or where they live — lack access to vital behavioral therapy services. These barriers result in stunning disparities in service delivery. Annual spending in services per child with ASD is one illustration. In Orange County, an average of $16,686 in services is spent per child, whereas in the Coachella Valley the average is $4,920.
The work of the task force has also spurred changes in the service provider community. Among other things, both CARD and ACT Today! have translated parent training modules and outreach materials into other languages, and ACT Today! has launched a website, ACT Today Español. Also, ACT Today! has committed to fund $100,000 in grants to Coachella Valley families who have children with ASD that can be used to defray the cost of treatments, assessments and other necessary expenditures.
These actions enhance the work of dedicated local service providers, such as the Coachella Valley Autism Society of America. They also dovetail with other efforts to improve access to care in the Coachella Valley, such as the Clinton Health Matters Initiative and the California Endowment’s Building Healthy Communities.