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Advocates for Autism of Massachusetts
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Autism Omnibus Bill approved by the Massachusetts Legislature

The Autism Omnibus Bill unanimously passed both the House and Senate but the branches’ versions differed so the bill returned to both branches in compromise form. The joint effort of The Arc and AFAM, with the leadership of Barbara L’Italien, Dir. of Government Affairs, was essential to passage of this bill in the final hours of the legislative session. Barbara took the lead on the efforts with a strong team including Amy Weinstock (Autism Insurance Resource Center), Julia Landau (MAC), Ann Guay and others. Other organizations in AFAM, chapters of The Arc, AANE and other groups showed their support. The bill was a combination of the pieces of legislation filed by Representative Garrett Bradley and Senator Jennifer Flanagan in January, 2013 as a result of the work by the Governor's Autism Commission. The legislation:

• Reestablishes the Autism Commission as a permanent and autonomous entity, staff included
• Two specific areas directed to study - the long-term needs for housing and employment - in addition to the areas of study and recommendations previously covered by the commission.
• DDS will now be directed to include in its eligibility guidelines the federal definition of developmental disability for people on the autism spectrum and those with Prader-Willi. This is a significant change as it will assist many whose functional needs are not reflected by their IQ score and who are now denied access to DDS services.
• Health insurance coverage for medically necessary treatments to Mass Health recipients for ABA behavior therapy and both dedicated and non-dedicated augmentative communication devices will now be funded for those through age 21 years.
• Public school special education teachers will have the option to attain an "Autism Endorsement" certification - a concentration in autism coursework and training to be leaders within their school communities.
• A tax-free savings account will be established -- patterned after the federal ABLE ACT legislation -- to allow all disabled families to save in a 529-style plan for expenses including education, housing, and any other needed supports and services. This section will not take effect immediately due to the need for federal participation.

The two other top priority bills of The Arc which passed this session are Real Lives, which places in statute self-determination for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and families; and National Background Check, which ensures a national safeguard for those hired to work directly with people served by DDS (Department of Developmental Services)

“We are so pleased with the results of this legislative session,” said AFAM’s Michael J. Borr. “These three pieces of legislation, as well as the inclusion of funding for autism data collection and tracking in the IT Bond bill, epitomize what happens when organizations work in a cooperative manner. AFAM’s 12 member organizations and our advocacy partnership with The Arc of Massachusetts personify that successful model of collaboration!”

Barbara L’Italien added “This legislation didn’t just happen. It represents the culmination of 4 years of efforts, including 3 years of the work of the Autism Commission and 2 years of advocacy at the State House. This will be transformational both for low-income families whose children will be able to receive behavioral therapy through MassHealth and for those additional families who may now be eligible for DDS services based on functional limitations rather than IQ.”

August 1, 2014


Save the Date!

It’s AFAM’s 10th Anniversary! Save the date for a gala celebration of this important milestone!

When: Saturday evening, October 18, 2014.

Where: Crowne Plaza Hotel/The Verve on Route 9 in Natick (opposite the Natick Mall)

What: A festive reception and dinner to mark 10 years of vigorous advocacy on behalf of people with an Autism Spectrum Disorder and their families. We’ll be honoring some very special people who have played important roles in our past accomplishments.

Our Honorees:
Julia Landau, Massachusetts Advocates for Children
Leo Sarkissian, The Arc of Massachusetts
Judith Ursitti, Autism Speaks
Martha Ziegler, founder, Federation for Children with Special Needs

Sponsorship Information (PDF)

For Sponsorship information, please contact Judy Zacek, AFAM Administrator, at 781-891-6270, ext. 102 or Zacek@arcmass.org


Sign up for the new Autism Awareness License Plate!

Autism License PlateAFAM and Autism Speaks have partnered to promote an Autism Awareness Specialty License Plate in Massachusetts! A portion of the proceeds from each plate sold will benefit Autism Speaks and AFAM. “We are proud to partner with AFAM and the other thirteen member organizations to spread awareness across the state and advocate for everyone on the autism spectrum,” said Kelley Borer-Miller of the Greater Boston Chapter of Autism Speaks.

Autism License Plate“The success of this joint license plate venture between AFAM and Autism Speaks will ensure advocacy at the Massachusetts State House for all individuals and families impacted by an autism spectrum disorder,” said Michael Borr, Chairman of AFAM’s Executive Committee. “The proceeds of the Autism Awareness License Plate will allow AFAM to continue to serve as the primary advocacy vehicle protecting the rights and needs of families throughout the state.”

To obtain an Autism Awareness License Plate Application, click here (pdf).

To read a recent news article that explains how specialty license plates can provide significant support to nonprofit organizations, click here.

 


About Advocates for Autism for Massachusetts (AFAM)

Advocates for Autism of Massachusetts was formed in 2004 to address the need for public advocacy on behalf of individuals, families and professionals who have or deal with people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) which also encompasses Asperger's Syndrome and high-functioning Autism. The organization provides an important arena for mobilizing those of us who deal with ASD in our day-to-day lives as the most eloquent and persuasive spokespeople for our concerns. Our efforts focus not only on the State House but also on towns and city halls that also have responsibility for service delivery and funding.


Mission  

Advocates for Autism of Massachusetts will strive to assure the human and civil rights of individuals of all ages across the entire Autism Spectrum and promote the availability of essential supports so that they may live fully and enjoy the same opportunities as other citizens of the Commonwealth.  We will educate individuals with ASD, their families and other AFAM members/supporters to be effective, vigorous agents of change. Read more.


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This web site was last updated 2 September 2014

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