During the 2012 legislative session, a bill was passed for a two-year pilot program to help provide autism services. The three legs of the bill are the Medicaid waiver program, an autism treatment account (funded both privately and by the Legislature) and the public employees health plan.
The Medicaid waiver requires a valid autism spectrum disorder diagnosis and Medicaid financial eligibility to be met.
“But that’s a little bit different than standard community Medicaid eligibility, said Tonya Hales, director of the Bureau of Authorization and Community Based Services. “Only the child’s income and assets are considered, so things like child support could come to play. ... But we didn’t have any children who weren’t available based on income.”
All 300 eligible applicants received the waiver, which provides about $29,000 a year for children ages 2–6 to receive applied behavior analysis therapy.
A large part of Bridges’ recent growth stems from the availability of the Medicaid autism waiver, which about half of the children at Bridges use. However, the waiver allows for only 15 hours of services that must be in-home services — a downfall of the program, according to Bowen.
Through the separate autism treatment account, about 10 percent of the children in the Bridges program receive 20 hours of therapy at the facility.
“We have found that when they’re in a public setting … they do better because they have more access to teachers and to students, so they get that social opportunity rather than just being at home,” Bowen said.