House Leaders Advance Legislation Establishing Long-Term Care For Those With Autism Spectrum Disorder

In April, Governor Haslam signed into law legislation spearheaded by House leaders to create a long-term system of care for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their families.

House Bill 384 establishes the Tennessee Council on Autism Spectrum Disorder. This 16-person advisory council would make recommendations and provide leadership in program development regarding matters concerning all levels of ASD services in health care, education, and other adult, adolescent, and children’s services.

Specifically, the Council will be charged with seven tasks:

• Assessing the current and future impact of Autism Spectrum Disorder on Tennesseans;

• Assessing the availability of programs and services currently provided for early screening diagnosis and treatment of ASD;

• Seeking additional input and recommendations from stakeholders that include providers, clinicians, institutions of higher education, and those concerned with the health and quality of life for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder;

• Developing a comprehensive statewide plan for an integrated system of training, treatment, and services for individuals of all ages with ASD;

• Ensuring interagency collaboration as the comprehensive statewide system of care for Autism Spectrum Disorder is developed and implemented;

• Coordinating available resources related to developing and implementing a system of care for autism spectrum disorder;

• Coordinating state budget requests related to systems of care for individuals with autism spectrum disorders based on the studies and recommendations of the council.

The Tennessee Council on Autism Spectrum Disorder would consist of the Commissioner of Health, the Executive Director of the Commission on Children & Youth, the Commissioner of Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities, the Commissioner of Education, the Commissioner of Human Services, the Commissioner of Commerce & Insurance, the Deputy Commissioner of TennCare, the Commissioner of Mental Health & Substance Abuse, one representative of the council on developmental disabilities, and nine adult individuals who have a diagnosis of ASD or that are either family members or primary caregivers of individuals with ASD.

Autism’s most-obvious signs tend to appear between 2 and 3 years of age. In some cases, it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months. The Autism Society currently estimates that about one percent of the world population has ASD, affecting over 3.5 million Americans, and one in every sixty-eight children. The organization also notes that Autism Spectrum Disorder is the fastest growing developmental disability in the United States.

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