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Autism Speaks, VAP Respond to New ABA Regulations

July 18, 2012

RICHMOND (July 18, 2012) --   Autism Speaks and the Virginia Autism Project (VAP) responded today to the Virginia Board of Medicine’s emergency regulations for certifying therapists who provide Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and removing the latest roadblock to Virginia families gaining access to the autism treatment in public schools, community programs, and at home.

“We are monitoring the situation in Virginia very closely and will act swiftly to correct any limitations that occur for families trying to access these insurance benefits,” said Judith Ursitti, Autism Speaks director of state government affairs.

Virginia enacted autism insurance reform in 2011 requiring ABA coverage for children through age 6, but it required ABA providers to obtain state certification even though no such process existed. A subsequent bill enacted this year directed the state Board of Medicine to establish a certification procedure after hearing recommendations from a working group that included ABA providers.

When the state Board of Medicine issued emergency regulations in late June, the proposal failed to include a number of the recommendations and raised concerns they could inadvertently prohibit students, teachers and therapists under supervision to provide services or even to get practical ABA training.

 “We have expressed this concern, but we have been assured by the Board of Medicine and staff that our concerns are unfounded,” said VAP President Teresa Champion. “Based on assurances from the staff of the Board of Medicine, we are willing to allow the regulations to go forward and be implemented as soon as possible.” 

In addition to the difficulties the regulations pose for schools, community programs, university programs and families with disabilities, VAP said it fears that the regulatory language will prevent insurance companies from covering ABA services provided by unlicensed, trained individuals who work under the supervision of a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) or Board Certified assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA). 

The small pool of BCBAs and BCaBAs in Virginia cannot personally provide therapy to all disabled Virginians in need, said Champion. As a result, many of Virginia’s families, schools, and community programs will have to choose between financial insolvency or watching a disabled loved one regress, she said.