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New Law Prompts Oregon Tech To Expand ABA Courses

KLAMATH FALLS, OR (September 13, 2013) -- The Oregon Institute of Technology is expanding its graduate course offerings in applied behavior analysis (ABA) to meet the expected demand for more practitioners as the state's new autism insurance reform law takes effect.

"Here is more evidence that autism insurance reform creates jobs," said  Lorri Unumb, Esq, Autism Speaks' vice president for state government affairs. "State laws requiring insurance coverage of ABA makes these services affordable and accessible to more families, thereby creating demand for more ABA therapists."

Oregon Tech, which currently offers undergraduate and graduate coursework in ABA, will offer the first two of a planned nine-course sequence of graduate courses in ABA at its Wilsonville campus starting this fall.

"These courses are designed to provide the rigorous training in ABA that will prepare professionals working in the field of autism to be ready to meet the need for well-qualified, credentialed providers," the institute said in a statement. Oregon Tech now offers a four-course undergraduate sequence that has been approved by the national Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) as meeting the coursework standards for Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts (BCaBA).

The expanded offerings are a result of the enactment of SB.365, a law requiring state-regulated health plans to cover ABA, in August. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Alan Bates, a family physician from Medford.

“I am pleased that Oregon Tech has jumped on the opportunity to prepare qualified practitioners to offer these services,” said Bates.

Dr. Maria Lynn Kessler, a professor of applied psychology at Oregon Tech, said the Applied Psychology program will partner with behavior analysts in the Wilsonville area to bring their expertise the the new course offerings.

"We look forward to meeting the workforce development needs by offering rigorous coursework in Applied Behavior Analysis to prepare professionals to provide quality services that will make a difference in the lives of children with autism,” she said.

The Oregon law, signed by Governor John Kitzhaber in August, will take effect in 2015 for public employees and 2016 for state-regulated health plans.

The new law establishes requirements for state-regulated health plans to approve and manage autism treatment, including ABA and any other medical or mental health services identified in an individualized treatment plan. To qualify, kids must begin treatment before age 9; up to 25 hours of ABA per week will be covered and continue for as long as medically necessary, regardless of age.

Existing Oregon laws require coverage of autism treatment for older patients and those seeking more than 25 hours of ABA per week.