Bill to help autistic children seek treatment makes it to the House

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC 4 Utah)  - After an emotional hearing at the Utah state capitol a bill that would help parents struggling with kids affected by autism could receive financial help treating their sons and daughters. Currently, the bill is on the way to the house for a final vote and could be decided on next week.

“Families need help and they need help now,” said Andrea Griggs, a mother of a autistic child.

Senate Bill 57 would provide insurance coverage for the thousands of autistic children covered under state regulated health plans. Autism affects over 18,000 children in Utah and at least two children born each day will later be diagnosed on the spectrum.

"We have so many un-served people out there and there is so many places that people could access from other places too if we only had funding. so this could open up doors, said Dr. TJ Glahn the Director of the Carmen B. Pingree Center for Children with Autism.

Thursday parents like Griggs and other advocates of SB 57 took a stand for what they say could save thousands of children who would benefit from treatment. “My son made vast improvement through treatment. He's able to get a hair cut and wear a t-shirt with a tag. He's able to look at me when he talks to me. He's able and willing to hug me and his family members. And he's able to make friends and maintain meaningful relationships which he was not able to do before,” said Griggs.

Senator Brian Shiozawa is a sponsor of the bill and its two year pilot study that showed significant improvement of autistic kids who went through applied behavioral analysis therapy (ABA) and similar treatments. He says this bill is significant for Utah. “Parents won’t have to pay out of pocket. They won’t have to mortgage their homes, take second or third jobs or move out off state to get therapy,” said Senator Shiozawa. 

But, not every parent whose family is affected by autism is on board with the new bill, calling it out dated.“My children have had all the benefits that this method claims without using this method without spending this money. It is not needed to put that emphasis. Mandated insurance is not needed because they are already coming on board now that it's predictable,” said Dwight Strigham.

However, medical experts say they see proof that ABA treatment does in fact work. "Its one of the most efficient and effective methodologies that is evidence based promoting change and rapid change in children with autism,” said Dr. Glahn.

If SB 57 passes Utah would be the 35th state offering mandated insurance for autistic children. 


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