Utah ABA Pilot Program Draws Mixed Reviews

SALT LAKE CITY (July 21, 2013) -- In a series of interviews with Utah parents, The Salt Lake Tribune has found mixed reviews for the state's autism treatment pilot program. The Legislature created the Medicaid program to provide applied behavior analysis (ABA) treatment for up to 300 children with autism chosen through a lottery, rather than enact legislation requiring state-regulated health insurers to cover the therapy.

In "Free autism treatment 'doing miracles' for some rural Utahns," the Tribune profiled Owen Kartchner, a three-year-old with autism with autism who lives with his parents in a remote section of southeastern Utah. Owen's diagnosis and the ABA pilot program are "doing miracles," said his mother, Robyn Kartchner.

"We have to be realistic," Kartchner said, referring to their life in a remote area. "We have this great opportunity, and I’m going to do as much as I can to make it successful."

Other families, however, cited less positive experiences in "Utah families question quality of care in autism experiment."

Jason Kava, a single dad caring for his three-year-old son with autism, JJ, said he was dropped by the ABA service provider after he questioned the quality of its care. He said the provider used inexperienced, unsupervised therapists, one of whom drove JJ 30 miles to her house without informing Kava.

Another parent, Angela Vasquez, said she fired her provider then put together her own plan for her daughter by downloading materials from the Internet. The in-home tutor, Vasquez said, took personal phone calls, often left early or called in sick.