Autism Pilot Program Advances out of Committee

(KCPW News) State lawmakers and members of the public showed widespread support Friday for a proposed pilot program to fund behavioral therapy for young children with autism. The program, put forward by Republican Representative Ronda Menlove, would last two years and help families with children ages two through six years old. She says she tried to find a solution outside of an insurance mandate, which she says places unnecessary stress on small businesses.

“And I think this is a positive solution where people have come to the table, not because of a mandate, they’ve come to the table because they recognize because of the great advocacy work of families and parents with autism that there is a need and we need to move into this arena and provide services,” she said.

Children of state employees and those on Medicaid would be eligible for the program.

Laura Anderson with the Autism Council of Utah says this is a big step forward.

“Every year we let this sit still without doing something. We are creating a generation of children who will need services far beyond public education,” said Anderson. “It’ll benefit the public education and special education services because they’re not going to have to serve them. Treatment works.”

One in every 77 Utah children is on the autism spectrum, according to the Utah Registry of Autism and Developmental Disabilities. Menlove’s bill advanced out of the House Health and Human Services Committee on a 7-to-1 vote.