Lorri Unumb, vice president of state government affairs for Autism Speaks, travels the country advocating for families and individuals facing the challenges of autism. This is her ongoing series "On The Road For Autism Reform."
The week “On the Road to Autism Insurance Reform” began with a Sunday evening flight to Washington, DC. I landed at 10:30’ish and stood in line behind 63 people to catch a cab! Then, once I finally arrived at my hotel, the front door was locked. Locked! I called the “after-hours” number on the front door and awakened the front desk clerk, who said he’d drive in from Virginia to open up for me. (Hello? I had a reservation.) By midnight, I was in my room, only to find there was no hot water. Argh. I was up and out by 6:30 the next morning, showerless.
On Monday, I enjoyed watching 11 "Autism and the Law" students at GW Law School testify in support of autism insurance reform legislation at a series of mock hearings. Thanks to Maryland legislator Kirill Reznik, North Carolina lobbyist Jimmy Broughton, and D.C. lawyer Tree Martschink for serving on the hearing committee.
Following a mad dash to Union Station, I caught a train to New York, where I had the privilege of attending "Autism Speaks to Wall Street" Celebrity Chef Gala. This amazingly glamorous event made up for the general lack of glamour in work travel! It was extraordinary, starting with cocktails on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (thanks Duncan Niederauer, pictured below) and ending at the fabulous Cipriani restaurant. My favorite photos of the evening, below, are with Meredith Vieira, who emceed the event, and Tom Dickinson, an inspiring chef on the spectrum (and now Facebook friend). Thanks to everyone who made this incredible event possible and especially thanks to the many supporters who helped raise the critical funds that allow us to continue our advocacy on behalf of autism families across the nation!
[slideshow:2, order=top, width=500, height=330, img=| http://www.autismspeaks.org/sites/default/files/images/advocacy/tom_dickinson_2.jpg|||With GFCF Chef Tom Dickinson\, an inspirational chef on the spectrum who wowed the crowd at the Celebrity Chef Gala.||, img=| http://www.autismspeaks.org/sites/default/files/images/advocacy/duncan_niederauer.jpg|||With Duncan Niederauer\, CEO of the New York Stock Exchange.||, img=| http://www.autismspeaks.org/sites/default/files/images/advocacy/viera.jpg||| With Meredith Vieira. This is big for a Today show junkie like me.||,]
Next were meetings in New York on Tuesday, followed by a quick overnight at home to kiss my husband and children. Then it was off to Columbus, Ohio on Wednesday for a great session with Ohio Senate President Keith Faber. Along with volunteer-extraordinaire Marci Ingram, my colleague Mike Wasmer, and our Ohio lobbyist Bob Klaffky, Senator Faber and I had a meaningful conversation about autism insurance reform and the need to move a bill through the Ohio legislature. I left the meeting feeling encouraged and hopeful that Ohio legislators will act soon to extend insurance coverage to the slice of families that Governor Kasich was unable to reach in his sweeping order last December.
And last but not least, much of the week, and the last few weeks, has been spent in preparation for an upcoming gathering in D.C.: Autism Speaks to Washington. This mid-November event will bring together leaders from across the country including top Administration officials, members of Congress, governors, prominent scientists and policy experts, key stakeholders, volunteers and activists to focus on a national strategy on autism. I’m looking forward to the call to action!