OKLAHOMA CITY (April 27, 2009) – Legislation improving the provider network of autism specialists in Oklahoma is headed to the governor’s desk following House passage today.
Senate Bill 135 mimics House Bill 2027, which originally passed the House unanimously. The bill calls for enactment of a licensing process for national Board Certified Behavior Analysts and enhancement of existing state programs that would train doctors to diagnose and treat autism.
During a legislative study conducted last year, lawmakers learned that a shortage of trained providers has made it difficult for families to obtain autism services, even when they have financial assistance.
"Currently, children with autism in our state only have a handful of providers to turn to for their treatment," said House Speaker Pro Tem Kris Steele, R-Shawnee and author of the bill. "Our emphasis with this legislation is on increasing access to autism service providers, which will ensure much-needed services are available to these children in Oklahoma."
When a recent state pilot program provided families over $12,000 a year to obtain autism-related services, much of the money went unspent because there were not enough professionals trained to work with children with autism.
If signed into law, the bill would increase the number of trained specialists to treat autism spectrum disorders while allowing the open market to adjust coverage based on the demand of services.
"This legislation addresses our immediate need, which is a lack of providers," said House Speaker Chris Benge, R-Tulsa. "I am pleased this legislation received bipartisan support in both the House and Senate and am hopeful the governor will sign it into law so we can begin work on building the state’s provider network as soon as possible."
The bill passed the House without a single ‘no’ vote and now moves to the governor for his signature into law.
Senate Bill 135 includes the following provisions:
• Establish a state license for national Board Certified Behavior Analysts and create a professional standard for Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).
• Increase training for the evaluation and diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders.
• Enhance Sooner Start by providing professional training for the treatment of children with autism spectrum disorders. Sooner Start is an early intervention and treatment program for children with disabilities and developmental delays age birth to three.
• Secure funding for an ABA Research Project to provide supervision to college students seeking licensure, quantify the effects of applied behavior analysis and offer parental training and support.
• Provide intensive early intervention for more children by replicating Early Foundations. Early Foundations is an autism treatment and outreach model that offers behavior intervention through trained providers.