It will take leaders like Lt. Gov. Brian Calley, who are willing to speak up about their personal journey, to move public policy in a way that will make the difference for the more than 1 million people in Michigan who suffer from other depression, bipolar illnesses and other mental disorders.
In 2012, Michigan passed significant legislation to expand insurance coverage for children with autism spectrum disorder, a group of developmental disabilities that can impair a person’s behavior and social and communication skills. A little more than two years later, it appears that implementation of the legislation has challenges—but also considerable promise—for achieving its goals.
While it is too early to see the legislation’s full impact, there are important lessons in the law’s passage for mental health advocates who want public policy to go beyond autism according to a recent report from the Center for Healthcare Research & Transformation, “Autism Spectrum Disorder in Michigan.”
The debate on autism coverage had been an active and contentious one when Gov. Rick Snyder was first elected governor in the fall of 2010. Bills to expand coverage for autism spectrum disorder were considered and defeated in 2010 because of cost concerns expressed by health plans and groups representing employers.
The legislative climate changed, however, when Snyder assumed office in January of 2011 because a father with a young daughter with autism also assumed an accompanying legislative leadership position that year.
Lt. Gov. Calley, who had long advocated for expanding autism services, served as a powerful advocate for finally moving this legislation forward—a key missing piece in advocates’ efforts to broaden the legislation past autism.