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." Read more North Carolina stories here.
On the Road to Autism Insurance Reform: North Carolina Stories – The Anders
The best part of my job is meeting amazing autism families all around the country. During my time in North Carolina recently, I have heard so many inspirational stories from all corners of the state, and I want to share them during these last few weeks of the legislative session. Each day, I will share a post written by a North Carolina family who is working to help pass autism insurance reform this year. Some of these families desperately need coverage for their own child; some of them are working solely for the benefit of others. These people inspire me every single day.
Meet the Anders Family
I am a Marine wife and mother of 3 boys (one with autism). My husband is an active duty Marine with over 28 years of service. We have been stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina for 4 years.
Our 14-year-old autistic son has many daily challenges including wandering and elopement. He has a long history of eloping from his caregivers and family and wandered away while we were moving into our home on Camp Lejeune. Due to the swift response of the Marines aboard Camp Lejeune, he was found and safely returned home. God bless our Marines! Our son has very limited communication and requires constant supervision to ensure his safety. He receives daily ABA therapy to address behaviors, improve language and communication, and develop daily living and safety skills like how to cross the street safely.
As a seasoned Marine spouse, I can speak to the important role family care plays in military readiness. ABA therapy has greatly improved the health and well-being of our son, our family, and many other military families in North Carolina. Assurance of medical care and family support services for military families are essential for the warfighter to remain mission-ready.
TRICARE, our military healthcare program, provides coverage of ABA therapy and recognizes Board Certified Behavior Analysts as authorized TRICARE providers, but access to ABA care in North Carolina remains a challenge and military families often face wait lists for the ABA services they need because of additional North Carolina requirements … that is where the leadership of the North Carolina General Assembly is needed.
Current North Carolina law prohibits qualified ABA providers from operating in the state greatly limiting the number of providers able to serve families. At the very time when we need an increase in ABA providers in North Carolina, we are losing them due to this unnecessary barrier.
It is my belief that military families should have access to recommended treatments consistent with best practices regardless of where they reside. North Carolina often holds itself up as the “most military friendly state” yet there are a great number of military children unable to access timely care because of North Carolina restrictions. We need help from the North Carolina legislature.
I ask the North Carolina Senate to allow a hearing on the autism insurance bill and help improve access to needed ABA services for North Carolina children, including our military kids.
Thank you and Semper Fidelis.
Camp Lejeune, North Carolina