Lawmakers hear $7M worth of autism recommendations
BISMARCK -- North Dakota lawmakers heard more than $7 million worth of recommendations Wednesday to improve autism services in the state. The state's Autism Spectrum Disorder Task Force prepared several suggestions for lawmakers to consider after...
BISMARCK -- North Dakota lawmakers heard more than $7 million worth of recommendations Wednesday to improve autism services in the state.
The state's Autism Spectrum Disorder Task Force prepared several suggestions for lawmakers to consider after being directed to come up with a list of policy recommendations and costs.
The most important priority for the task force is hiring a state autism coordinator and assistant, said JoAnne Hoesel, the task force's chairwoman.
"We've talked over the past months with you about the fragmentation that is in place and that parents and families often don't know where to go (for help)," Hoesel told lawmakers. "So, we see this coordinator and assistant as being the source to turn that around."
The coordinator would serve as a one-stop shop to provide information, Hoesel said. The coordinator would also offer regional meetings and help form regional coalitions, as well as plan an annual conference.
The job also would involve developing a state outreach plan, leading efforts to establish standards for professional development and contracting for a state autism spectrum disorder website. Another task would be developing protocol to use after autism screenings.
The estimated cost for the coordinator, assistant and operating funds is $494,135 for a two-year period, she said.
The second highest priority for the task force is creating a comprehensive training fund, Hoesel said. This includes providing online early identification training for physicians and regional training for day care providers, preschool programs, public health centers, schools and communities. Nearly $160,000 to support the fund is suggested.
Other recommendations included mandating private insurance coverage. This was the biggest ticket item, with an estimated cost of $5.8 million for a biennium for those covered by the Public Employees Retirement System.
Expanding and refocusing the autism spectrum disorder Medicaid waiver, creating a tracking system or an autism spectrum disorder registry and increasing the number of behavioral analysts in the state were among the recommendations.
Finneman is a multimedia reporter for Forum Communications Co.