Week 12 found us wrapping up the remaining hearings and taking action on the last bills in committee. It’s hard to believe, because in many ways it feels like we just got started, but the end of the 2013 session is now only a few weeks away. The next few weeks will be spent working on reconciling changes made in one chamber or the other and finalizing some of the large appropriation bills as we work to balance the proposed bills with the budget.
As we continue to look at some of the progress being made, I’ll be categorizing and narrowing the focus of each week’s report in an attempt to keep it manageable. Less is more, right? As always, if there is anything of particular interest you’d like to hear about, please don’t hesitate to let me know.
Altogether, the House and the Senate saw a total of four bills related to the Autism Spectrum Disorder – HB 1037, HB 1038, HB 1039 and SB 2193.
Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a condition that is affecting a growing number of our population and as the science is evolving, experts, families and care providers are finding more needs to be understood and addressed. Once thought to a singular disorder, the research is showing that there are actually a number of behavioral disorders such as Asperger’s that fall under the umbrella of ASD – and that the effects of the disorders range from mild to severe. Here in North Dakota we have much to do to not only gain a clearer understanding of ASD, but to also begin to help those affected. Testimony was clear: Early detection, education for both parent and provider, and social skills training are all paramount elements in helping an individual diagnosed with ASD to become independent and productive.
The bills each addressed specific issues such as the development of a state registry – or database – to begin to collect information related to ASD diagnosed individuals. Secure and protected, the data would not be associated with any person’s personal information such as name or social security, and would act much the same as the CDC’s cancer registry and others facilitated through the Department of Health. Also included was a voucher system that would help to provide education, medicines, social skills training, and vocational rehabilitation.
As it stands today, two of the bills have been killed in one chamber or the other and it looks as though the remaining two will be blended into one. The voucher program is morphing towards a Medicaid waiver, but as it stands now, would only be available for children up to five years old. With many children not diagnosed until well into their school years, this is problematic at best. As the remaining two bills move into conference committee, we remain hopeful the committee members will work towards a best case scenario and move forward a product that will truly benefit those affected.
Representative Gail Mooney
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