BOSTON – The Massachusetts Senate on Tuesday unanimously passed a bill to expand treatment and support for individuals with autism or a developmental disability across the Commonwealth, State Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D- Pittsfield) announced.
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 of Representatives will now form a conference committee to produce a compromise bill for final passage and consideration of the Governor.