As Charlie Daniels would say, “The South’s Gonna Do It Again.” Notwithstanding that my own home state of South Carolina was an early leader in autism insurance reform, several Southern states are still lacking insurance coverage for autism treatments. As such, the Autism Speaks Advocacy Team has hit the road down south! We’re working in Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, and Mississippi as well as a handful of other states scattered around the country.
Judith Ursitti is spending time in Georgia, where Governor Nathan Deal recently put $2.4 million into his budget for state employee autism insurance coverage. Hooray! Shelley Hendrix was in Jackson, Mississippi this week to witness our autism bill unanimously pass through the House Insurance committee. Another hooray!
Earlier this week (and last week), I hit the legislative building in Tennessee to negotiate with a couple dozen lobbyists who oppose our autism insurance bill. I’ll be back in Nashville next week and the next week, and I’m looking forward to meeting lots of autism families there on Tuesday, February 4th, when our bill is being heard before the House Insurance and Banking Committee. I hope all the Tennessee autism families out there will come to the hearing that day and wear red! If you haven’t yet heard from Jennifer Sheridan, the autism mom and grassroots-organizer-extraordinaire in the photo below, I bet you will soon!
As for North Carolina, there was lots of activity in the fall, and I look forward to getting back to Raleigh soon! In the fall, I attended a wonderful luncheon for the ABC of NC autism program in Winston-Salem, at which Maya Angelou was the keynote speaker. Maya was inspiring, as was her great-niece Dori Colly, who has a child on the spectrum. I’m betting Dori (pictured below) will do big things on behalf of her son Donovan and many other children with autism.
After the luncheon, Autism Speaks president Liz Feld and I enjoyed visiting with some movers and shakers from the North Carolina autism community at the home of Mary Louise and John Burress. John is an extraordinary, beyond-the-call-of-duty volunteer on the advocacy front, and I have enjoyed working with him over the last few years.
Many legislators in North Carolina, as well as Governor McCrory (pictured below), have expressed support for autism insurance coverage. I think 2014 is our year!
If you live in any of these Southern states, it’s not too early to pick up the phone, call your state legislators, and tell them how much autism insurance coverage would mean to you and your family!! You don’t have know the bill number or the name of the relevant committee or any of that – just call, tell your story, and express your support for the autism insurance bill!