We provide this press release from the Senate President’s office.
Senate Passes Bill to Assist Individuals with Autism
BOSTON – The Senate on Tuesday unanimously passed a bill to expand treatment and support for individuals with autism or a developmental disability across the Commonwealth.
“This bill helps Massachusetts better meet the needs of the autism and developmental disabilities community,” Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth) said. “By expanding coverage for applied behavior analysis through MassHealth, creating a special endorsement for educators and establishing a licensure process for programs that provide treatment to individuals with a developmental disability, we are giving these individuals the tools and support they need to reach their highest potential and succeed in life. I am proud of the Legislature for making this community a priority here in the Commonwealth.”
“This legislation asks that all stakeholders, from education, to housing, to direct care, come together to provide a holistic approach toward assisting children and adults with autism and developmental disabilities,” said Senator Jennifer L. Flanagan (D-Leominster), Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “As this population continues to grow, it is imperative the legislature act to expand services so that everyone has access to education, job opportunities, and developmentally appropriate programs.”
“Individuals with autism spectrum disorders and developmental disabilities often require extra educational and medical services in order to lead happy and fulfilling lives,” said Senator Stephen M. Brewer (D-Barre), Chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. “This bill creates a number of support services for individuals with autism and developmental disabilities. It also creates commissions to report further on pressing issues such as employment training and affordable housing for these individuals. In MA addition, provisions in the bill that provide licensure and coursework for teachers will improve educational opportunities, and expanded coverage for persons receiving MassHealth will help those with autism spectrum disorders to receive the medically necessary treatments they need. This bill will continue the Commonwealth’s mission of improving quality of life to those with autism spectrum disorders and developmental disabilities.”
The bill creates a 35-member commission on autism within the Executive Office of Health and Human Services to make recommendations about how to improve the services for individuals with autism spectrum disorders and to monitor the implementation of policies impacting individuals with autism spectrum disorders.
It requires MassHealth to cover medically necessary treatments for individuals who are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, including services for applied behavior analysis.
The bill expands the types of services that are available through the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) to an individual with a developmental disability, as well as requires DDS and the Department of Mental Health to collaborate to ensure that the needs of individuals with both a developmental disability and a mental illness are met.
Additionally, the bill requires programs that provide residential or day care services and treatment for persons with a developmental disability to obtain a license from DDS. It also requires DDS to provide transportation for education, day care or treatment as part of the department’s community developmental disability services.
To help support a successful learning environment, the bill requires administrators and teachers to have training in strategies for effective inclusive schooling for children with autism. Additionally, the bill creates an endorsement in autism through the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education for licensed special education teachers who complete the necessary coursework and field experiences in order to address the specific educational needs of students with autism. It also authorizes the Board to issue an autism endorsement to current special education teachers who work with students with autism and effectively demonstrate the knowledge, skills and competencies to fulfill this authorization.
The Senate and House will now produce a compromise bill for final passage and consideration of the Governor.