2013 was a busy year in the autism community. We witnessed the changeover in statewide service delivery from Local Management Entities (LMEs) to Managed Care Organizations (MCOs). Issues that had stalled for years with the legislature moved forward, but not all the way into law. And more families learned that they have a member on the autism spectrum. All in all, it was a significant year, and we would like to highlight just a few items as the year draws to a close.
Medicaid Waiver Transition
Many families receive funding for services through Medicaid in our state. Many more are eligible and are waiting for services. The first quarter of the year saw a change in service delivery that consolidated 22 LMEs down to 10 MCOs. The transition had some rough spots, and the Autism Society of North Carolina (ASNC) continues to work with MCO staff and families to advocate for improvements to the system and expansion of services to more individuals with autism.
Autism Insurance (House Bill 498)
For over five years, ASNC has worked with parents, professionals, and a coalition of other autism organizations to educate lawmakers about the impact that insurance coverage for autism would have in our state. These efforts resulted in an incredible 48 hours of activity in May. During those 48 hours, HB 498 was discussed and approved by the House Insurance Committee and the Appropriations Committee, and then passed the full House by a 105-7 margin. This moved the bill to the NC Senate, where if approved it would proceed to the governor. As the legislative session drew to a close, HB 498 was not given a hearing by the Senate, but it remains alive, and we expect the Senate to take this up at the start of the 2014 short session.
Along with the waiver transition, many providers of services either scaled back their caseload, or in some cases, ceased operations. The Autism Society of North Carolina has worked to continue high-quality services and expand the regions in which we are able to offer them. These efforts included hiring a Services Coordinator and opening a new office in Charlotte. Now families in that area of the state will be able to access additional services from the organization. View the Autism Society of North Carolina services offices here.
Connecting with and Helping Self-Advocates and Families
This is the core of what we do, and during 2013, the Autism Society of North Carolina assisted thousands of individuals on the autism spectrum and their families through our Autism Resource Specialists, chapters, and support groups. Autism Resource Specialists (formerly Parent Advocates) cover all 100 counties and assist with information and referral, school issues, parent training, and community education. If you have not tapped into their expertise, please make sure to connect in 2014.
Celebrating and Accepting
On April 2, more than 500 people traveled to Camp Royall to celebrate World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD). This was the first ASNC attempt to have a public event in recognition of this day, and we were blown away by the response. Families traveled from as far away as Charlotte, Asheville, and the coast to enjoy fellowship, food, and fun with the variety of activities the camp offers. Camp Royall not only hosted WAAD, but also provided summer camp for over 350 individuals and served 900 more during year-round programming. 2013 marked the 42nd consecutive year that ASNC has offered a summer camp, the longest running summer camp program for individuals with ASD in the nation. Our community also celebrated awareness and acceptance at our Run/Walk for Autism events throughout the state. From the mountains to the sea, thousands of families and community members came together to walk, run, volunteer, and raise money to support each other and ASNC. More than $500,000 was raised through these events – a new record. What an accomplishment.
Collaboration and Community
Everything we do is related to providing support to and increasing opportunities that enhance the lives of individuals on the autism spectrum and their families. These principles guided us when the founders started the organization almost 44 years ago, and they still guide us today. Parent and professional collaboration is the key to promoting understanding and acceptance, and for your support – whether you have donated to the organization, written an email to a legislator, shared our website address or phone number with a family in need, or volunteered your time – we say THANK YOU. All of the above would not have happened without your involvement.
Best wishes for the New Year!
Director of Communications