In June, David Ferrara reported at the Las Vegas Review-Journal
Juvenile Court Hearing Master Soonhee “Sunny” Bailey noticed a growing number of youths entering the justice system who showed signs of autism, and many were not receiving the treatment they required.Jennifer Solis at The Nevada Current:
“There’s a huge need to service these kids,” said Bailey, who recognized the symptoms, having raised an autistic daughter. “And we haven’t been able to address it until recently.”
This year, she and Family Court Judge William Voy launched Detention Alternatives for Autistic Youth Court, or DAAY Court, a specialty court geared toward helping troubled youngsters with the condition.
But the court is also a reflection of a system that has failed to intervene much earlier in the lives of young autistic people, when such intervention can make all the difference in behavior patterns as children get older.
Clark County District Court Judge William Voy, who runs the court’s Family Division, which includes the DAAY Court, said once a child lands in court it often takes up to six months or longer to connect them to service providers that offer effective therapies.
Young offenders average about three and a half citations before they get a formal petition that lands them in DAAY court, said Voy. Most cases that make their way through the court are battery of various levels, often domestic violence charges or assault of a school employee or healthcare provider they encounter. The district attorney has the discretion to choose to file petitions against these minors.
“It’s just really a physical representation of the school-to-prison pipeline because for children with autism who don’t get these services — the natural side effect of that is aggression,” said Bailey Bortolin, a policy director for Nevada Coalition of Legal Service Providers, who works on behalf of autistic children in the legal system. “It’s very common for an autistic child to bite someone because they’re not learning through services how to correctly express themselves.”
Currently, only about 290 children in the state are receiving ABA services through Medicaid. These numbers indicate a 36 percent increase in access to care since June 2017, but falls far short of the budgeted caseload of 1,879. Additionally, only some $1 million of the appropriated $42 million was spent by Medicaid through March 2017.
Advocates and lawmakers say a large part of the discrepancy is because of a workforce shortage of ABA providers. Still for many families, even finding an ABA provider that takes Medicaid can be difficult and frustrating.