Governor’s Budget Deprives Vital Care to Autistic Kids on Medi-Cal

By Viji Sundaram, New America Media

Low-income parents who have children with autism are angry that state lawmakers have passed a budget that will deprive their offspring of vital services to treat their condition.

“Unfortunately, the autism community got left out in the cold,” asserted Kristin Jacobson, president and co-founder of Autism Deserves Equal Coverage.

At least 500 young children on Medi-Cal, the federal and state funded program for low-income children, will no longer get the vital Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) services, crucial for autistic children because it improves their socialization and learning ability skills and could even allow some of them to be mainstreamed in schools.

Even as it is, autistic children who had transitioned from the Healthy Families Program (HFP) into Medi-Cal earlier this year because of a budget decision were hurt by the move because Medi-Cal does not provide ABA services, but instead pays for the service through regional centers.

Sadly, nearly two-thirds of former Healthy Families patients could not access those services because of the “stringent criteria” set by the regional centers, noted Karen Fessel, executive director and co-founder of the Autism Health Insurance Project. Those patients lost the ground they had gained, she said.

“It’s been incredibly difficult for the parents,” Jacobson said, noting that one “desperate mother” asked her if she could learn the therapy so she could provide her son care.

Children’s health care advocates had asked lawmakers to set aside $50 million in the budget so regional centers that had been providing those service, could continue doing so.

But lawmakers instead embraced Gov. Jerry Brown’s argument that the state could no longer afford to fund regional centers.

Jacobson said that the governor was being shortsighted in de-funding regional services because every child who receives ABA services could save the state some $1 million over his or her lifetime.

Children who don’t receive the service could end up being institutionalized, she warned.

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June 20, 2013  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.

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