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World Autism Awareness Day News

Crist Extends Autism Task Force on World Autism Awareness Day
Task Force co-chair Dan Marino joins Governor for Executive Order signing extending task force until January 5, 2011.

Thursday April 2nd, 2009

TALLAHASSEE – Governor Charlie Crist today signed Executive Order 09-82, extending the Task Force on Autism Spectrum Disorders until January 5, 2011. Governor Crist was joined at the signing, taking place on World Autism Awareness Day, by task force co-chair Dan Marino, Hall of Fame quarterback for the Miami Dolphins. Governor Crist also highlighted legislation approved in 2008 that increases health care coverage for services for autism.

“By raising autism awareness and encouraging new research, we are helping Florida’s most treasured resource, our children, to live healthier and more empowered lives,” said Governor Crist. “Extending the work of the task force provides more opportunity for successes and understanding, improving the lives of all Floridians affected by autism spectrum disorders.”

Beginning April 1, 2009, Senate Bill 2654 requires group health insurance policies to cover screening and therapies for autism. For children diagnosed before age 8 with autism spectrum disorders – specifically autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified – coverage includes up to $36,000 a year for therapies, up to $200,000 in total lifetime benefits. Additionally, insurers cannot deny coverage due to diagnosis of a developmental disability, and coverage must continue until the child’s 18th birthday or until no longer enrolled in high school.

Governor Crist has also signed a proclamation observing April 2, 2009, as World Autism Awareness Day in Florida. Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life. Statistics show that one in every 150 children develops an autism spectrum disorder. The disability, while more prevalent in boys, knows no racial, ethnic or social boundaries.

Task Force 2009 Report Highlights

During its first year, the Governor’s Task Force on Autism Spectrum Disorders recommended a unified and coordinated agenda for addressing autism in Florida. Highlights of the report, under consideration for the Governor, include:

  • The creation and maintenance of a Statewide Autism Website in order to increase awareness of existing technology and resources.

  • Developing and implementing targeted outreach campaigns for individuals with autism and their families, in addition to the general public.

  • Additional research on prevalence, causes and links to autism.

  • Increased awareness of early signs of autism and autism screenings.

  • Expansion of Take Me Home program throughout Florida and increased safety precautions.

  • Exploration of cost-saving opportunities for families maneuvering through the medical payment and reimbursement system.

Governor’s Task Force on Autism Spectrum Disorders

Governor Crist signed Executive Order 08-36 creating the Task Force on Autism Spectrum Disorders on March 7, 2008. The task force works to advance public policy for the research, screening, education, and treatment of autism; to assess the availability of insurance coverage for appropriate treatment of autism; and to recommend a unified and coordinated agenda for addressing autism in Florida.  The 25 members of the Task Force include health care practitioners, autism advocates, representatives from private and public organizations that address autism, state and local government representatives, family members of persons with autism spectrum disorders, and an individual with an autism spectrum disorder.

STATE OF FLORIDA

OFFICE OF THE GOVERNOR

EXECUTIVE ORDER NUMBER 09-82

(Extension of Executive Order 08-36)

WHEREAS, the Governor’s Taskforce on Autism Spectrum Disorders (the “Task Force”) was established by Executive Order 08-36 to advance public policy for the research, screening, education, and treatment of autism, to assess the availability of insurance coverage for appropriate treatment of autism, and to recommend a unified and coordinated agenda for addressing autism in Florida; and

WHEREAS, it is in the interest of Florida’s families facing autism and the public as a whole that the Task Force continue in existence beyond the termination date specified in Executive Order 08-36.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, CHARLIE CRIST, as Governor of Florida, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the laws and Constitution of the State of Florida, issue the following Executive Order, effective immediately:

Section 1.

The Governor’s Taskforce on Autism Spectrum Disorders (the “Task Force”) shall continue in existence until January 5, 2011, unless extended by further Executive Order of the Governor.

Section 2.

The responsibilities of the Task Force shall include, but shall not be limited to:

a.      developing a strategy for early diagnosis and intervention by working with medical experts and organizations to determine how best to encourage screenings for autism as part of routine pediatric visits;

b.      reviewing the coordination and efforts of state agencies and organizations relating to the provision of treatment to individuals with autism and resources available to their families and other caregivers;

c.      developing a plan to implement a comprehensive Florida autism Web site to help families, educators, and health care providers sort through information and quickly identify resources;

d.      identifying and recommending methods to remove barriers to the education and awareness of parents, teachers, medical professionals and other caregivers of young children to facilitate early diagnosis and intervention;

e.      identifying and recommending methods to encourage public-private partnerships and resource sharing in support of autism and developmental disabilities research and services;

f.        partnering with agencies and organizations serving the autism community to facilitate collaborative efforts consistent with the purposes of the Task Force;

g.      developing strategy to gauge the prevalence of autism in Florida;

h.      assessing short-term and long-term financial and societal impact of autism to families and the state and making recommendations for cost-saving measures;

i.        developing long-term recommendations as to the education, integration, care, employment, and coverage of persons with autism;

j.         developing strategy to increase community awareness of autism, with special attention to communities with evidenced economic need or health disparities;

k.      developing recommendations to ensure the safety of persons with autism;

l.         exploring options for health coverage of individualized autism treatment, including, but not limited to, speech therapy, occupational therapy, mental health, and alternative therapies;

m.    exploring methods of identifying and addressing quality of life concerns of individuals with autism and their families;

n.      developing recommendations for the zero-tolerance policy that reflect the needs of individuals with autism spectrum disorders;

o.      developing recommendations for positive behavior supports in lieu of restraint and seclusion that reflect the safety and behavioral needs of individuals with autism spectrum disorders;

p.      developing regional-level collaboratives for autism spectrum disorders through the Centers for Autism and Related Disabilities (CARD) as central points for information sharing, gap reduction, collaborative planning, and service delivery;

q.      developing recommendations for transitional life periods, employment, and independent living support of persons with autism spectrum disorders;

r.        developing recommendations for the dental care of individuals with autism spectrum disorders;

s.      reviewing and recommending assistive technology/technology options for individuals with autism spectrum disorders; and

t.        maintaining and periodically reviewing autism-specific cost data.

Section 3.

The Task Force shall prepare a second annual report to the Governor no later than March 20, 2010, which shall include, but need not be limited to, the issues described in Section 3 of Executive Order 08-36. 

Section 4.

The Task Force shall consist of 18 to 25 members appointed by the Governor.  Membership of the Task Force shall reflect a broad spectrum of interested parties, including, but not limited to:

a. Self-advocates with autism spectrum disorders;

b. Health care practitioners;

c. Advocates for persons with autism spectrum disorders;

d. Representatives from private and public organizations that address autism;

e. State and local government representatives; and

f. Family members of persons with autism spectrum disorders.

IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Great Seal of the State of Florida to be affixed, at Tallahassee, the Capitol this 2nd day of April, 2009.

Charlie Crist

GOVERNOR

ATTEST:

Kurt Browning

SECRETARY OF STATE