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Autism Speaks Joins the Arizona Autism Community in Hailing Governor Janet Napolitano and State Legislators for Enacting Autism Insurance Legislation

NEW YORK, NY (March 21, 2008) -- Autism Speaks today joined Arizona families and other autism advocacy organizations in applauding Governor Janet Napolitano and the state's legislators for enacting House Bill 2847, which will require insurance carriers to provide coverage of evidence-based, medically necessary autism therapies. In many states, insurers explicitly exclude coverage of these therapies from policies, which places a significant financial burden on families seeking to provide their children with necessary services. Autism Speaks has launched a multi-state initiative to address this discrimination.

The new Arizona law requires insurers to cover up to $50,000 a year for Applied Behavior Analysis therapy for children until age nine, and $25,000 a year for children until age sixteen. It covers therapy for children whose diagnoses reflect the full range of the autism spectrum. Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is recognized by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Surgeon General, among others, as an effective, evidence-based treatment for children with autism.

“Every state in the nation, and every Governor, is facing the same struggle to meet the treatment needs of this growing population,” said Governor Napolitano. “In my view and in the view of the families who have struggled to pay for necessary treatments for their children with autism -- often resulting in bankruptcy or families joining the state welfare rolls -- HB 2847 is a necessary insurance update to cover essential treatments for these children.”

“With the enactment of this legislation, Arizona joins the ranks of states that have recognized the unfair and unreasonable burden being imposed on families of children with autism,” said Elizabeth Emken, Autism Speaks vice president for government relations. “These families are either going broke trying to provide services for their children or stitching together inadequate treatment plans because they simply cannot afford the help their children need and deserve. That is about to change.”

The passage of this legislation was the result of a grass-roots advocacy effort led by hundreds of committed families with the support of local and national advocacy organizations, including: the Autism Society of America, Greater Phoenix Chapter; ASA Pima County and Northern Arizona Chapter; Supporting Autism Now through Education (SANE); Asperger Parent Network; Arizona Autism Coalition; Arizona Autism Support; Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC), Recover our Kids (ROK), and the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD), among others.

“This new law is a great victory for Arizona families and those living with autism,” said Lisa Glow, CEO of the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC). “We are especially pleased that the legislation includes coverage of therapies for individuals with Asperger's Syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD), in addition to autistic disorder. All children on the spectrum can make improvements with treatment, so no category of children should be excluded or discriminated against.”

“The autism community came together in support of this legislation in a way that was unprecedented,” said Gretchen Jacobs, a lobbyist -- and mother of a four year-old girl with autism -- who worked on the legislation. “Family members from around the state made phone calls, wrote letters and walked the districts of lawmakers. It was a coordinated campaign that brought out the best in our community.”

The legislative effort began as “Steven's Law”, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Amanda Aguirre of Tucson (Senate Bill 1263), and named after the son of Char Ugol, the mother of a child with autism. The bill was then amended onto House Bill 2847 sponsored by Rep. Bill Konopnicki.

ABOUT AUTISM
Autism is a complex brain disorder that inhibits a person's ability to communicate and develop social relationships, and is often accompanied by extreme behavioral challenges. Autism spectrum disorders are diagnosed in one in 150 children in the United States, affecting four times as many boys as girls. The diagnosis of autism has increased tenfold in the last decade. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have called autism a national public health crisis whose cause and cure remain unknown.

ABOUT AUTISM SPEAKS
Autism Speaks is dedicated to increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders, to funding research into the causes, prevention and treatments for autism, and to advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. It was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, the grandparents of a child with autism. Bob Wright is Vice Chairman, General Electric, and served as chief executive officer of NBC for more than twenty years. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit www.autismspeaks.org.