Autism medical waiver increases therapy enrollment

Published: Saturday, Oct. 19 2013 4:43 p.m. MDT

The waiver covers 10-15 hours of in-home therapy and up to three hours of respite for the family each week, as well as case-management services from the state. Hales said this so far has been enough to meet the children’s needs.

“The data that we do have is quite positive,” Hales said. “We have some really great stories from families and a lot of appreciative families that are really grateful for the help.”

The funding sources have requirements for autism service providers, which caused some Utah clinics to decide to opt out of using the funding. Bowen said it was a heavy burden for Bridges to get the funding programs running and the additional staff trained.

They had to start providing in-home services and hire a board certified behavior analyst to oversee the program.

A large part of Bridges’ recent growth stems from the availability of the Medicaid autism waiver, which about half of the children at Bridges use. However, the waiver allows for only 15 hours of services that must be in-home services — a downfall of the program, according to Bowen.

Through the separate autism treatment account, about 10 percent of the children in the Bridges program receive 20 hours of therapy at the facility.

“We have found that when they’re in a public setting … they do better because they have more access to teachers and to students, so they get that social opportunity rather than just being at home,” Bowen said.

Part of Bridges’ expansion includes new CEO Scott Bean, who has a personal connection to Kids on the Move. Twenty years ago, he and his wife took their daughter there for diagnosis and help.

When Bean first went there, the founders looked him in the eye and told him to never underestimate what his child could accomplish. Now he’s telling parents of children with a delay or disability the same thing.

“Autism is no respecter … of money or status in society or anything else and it affects every family profoundly,” Bean said. “What we need to figure out in society is how to provide services to people who wouldn’t otherwise be able to receive them.”

He said the legislative funding will allow for more children to receive the help they need and aid Kids on the Move with its goal to provide more qualified people to help individuals with autism spectrum disorder.

“It’s given hope to parents where they didn’t have any hope before, especially for those who didn’t have money,” Bean said. “The Medicaid waiver all of a sudden changes the landscape because now it gives parents the opportunity to get help for their kids.”

While the funding is bridging some gaps, the pilot program will last only through June 2014 unless it is extended when the Legislature revisits the issue at the beginning of the year.

Email: madbrown@deseretnews.com

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