Michigan is currently ranked in the top ten worst places to live for children with autism.
Autism is a severe disorder that impacts 1 in 88 children and is considered an epidemic by many. Another 1,000 children are born with autism in Michigan each year. There is no known cause or cure. It is estimated there are over 50,000 adults with autism in Michigan, many whom never had access to medically proven therapies.
While we have made significant progress on autism, there is still a big gap in Michigan. The Autism Insurance Legislation passed in 2012 is just the first step in making Michigan a place where children and adults with autism can maximize their abilities to live and work in communities of their choice.
The 2012 insurance coverage was overwhelmingly supported by a broad bipartisan team of legislators, but only applies to state regulated insurance. Large corporations that are self-insured need to voluntarily adopt coverage. Many have, but many haven't, creating large groups of children with no coverage. Since the state reimburses the cost, the decision to provide coverage should be an easy one for companies.
Beyond insurance coverage, Michigan has human service and education systems that fail this population and their families. Limited transition services and no technical training or college programs result in over 90 percent unemployment levels among adults with autism. There are virtually no housing options.
The recently released State Autism Plan lays out 76 pages of key recommendations that address urgent needs in the areas of family training, early identification and intervention, education supports and services and adult supports and services.
We are reinventing Michigan for children, adults and families with autism. I encourage large companies to adopt coverage for medically-proven therapies and for educators and human service agencies to embrace the State Autism Plan.
David E. Meador, chair of the board of the Autism Alliance of Michigan