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On Thursday (today), Governor Jay Nixon visited Burrell Autism Center in Springfield to sign a budget bill that will increase the state’s investment in five regional projects by $750,000. This increase should, according to the governor’s office, provide services for about 375 more kids in southern Missouri. KSMU’s Rebekah Clark reports.
This bill sets aside state funds for the Department of Mental Health. Already, the department oversees regional projects in the state that collectively provide autism services to about 2,500 families. Those services are designed to help individuals with autism develop skills. Families also receive training and support. The bill signed by Nixon will extend services, bringing the total served to about 2,875.
"You can just imagine, there’s those folks on waiting lists. Those folks don’t have access to it. These additional resources will be able to take an already significantly functioning group of organizations and give them more resources to reach more people. I appreciate the legislators on both sides of the isle that came together to make this critical investment. I appreciate the parents, medical providers, and other advocates who worked so hard on this issue as well.”
A 2010 law provides insurance protection for individuals with autism. Nixon notes that the 2010 law requires state regulated health insurance companies to cover up to $41,000 of autism therapy a year.
“The Landmark Law also calls for professionals who provide the therapy to get a state license as a behavior analyst. This insures that a trained expert is caring for children affected by autism. We are already seeing results from this legislation. One point three million Missourians now have a health plan that must provide coverage for applied behavior analysis that didn’t exist before.”
Nixon says the regional autism project began in 1991 in Mid-Missouri. Over the years, he says that project expanded to five regions across the state that work with organizations like Burrell to help families.
Nixon says this additional money for autism services was not included in his original budget plan. However, as the economy has improved, lawmakers were able to work with rosier projected revenue estimates for the next fiscal year. They chose to put some of that additional money into autism services.
This bill will take effect July 1.
For KSMU News, I’m Rebekah Clark