Mother and father Wait Or Drive Throughout State For Autism Remedy

RALEIGH, NC – North Carolina lawmakers are working hard to remove an obstacle to behavioral health care, especially for children with autism.

Health care providers called behavioral analysts offer therapies for a range of people, including people with autism. Some work one on one with people with autism, including teaching children with autism to talk, use the bathroom, or reduce self-harm.

Under current government regulations, behavior analysts cannot practice independently. Your work must be supervised by a licensed psychologist.

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Two recently filed laws would mean that when passed, North Carolina will no longer be the only state with such a requirement.

House Bill 91, sponsored by John Bell, a Republican from Goldsboro, and Senate Bill 103, sponsored by Senator Jim Perry, a Republican from Kinston, give behavioral analysts the opportunity to license and practice on their own. It would also create a board charged with licensing, disciplining and setting rules for the providers.

The lawmakers are joined by a number of their Senate and house colleagues who also support the bill, including Rep. Zack Hawkins, a Durham Democrat whose two children are on the autism spectrum.

Hawkins said his children could be looked after by behavioral analysts, but many rural families could not.

“In North Carolina, we say where the weak grow strong and the strong grow big,” Hawkins said. “And this calculation is a calculation that helps us illustrate that.”

The potential change, supporters say, would make it easier for thousands of families to receive behavioral health care for their loved ones with autism.

“For us as a family, the most important thing is that your child develops their full potential,” said Kyle Robinson, whose wife, Bobbie, quit her job to drive her son from her home in Greenville to Winston-Salem every week for therapy. “This bill will allow better access to care, which is really important in eastern North Carolina, and quality too.”

Reduction of unnecessary regulations

According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one in 39 children in North Carolina has an autism spectrum disorder. That’s the equivalent of more than 60,000 children with autism in the state, proponents of the bill said.

But only an estimated 60 psychologists can work independently as board-certified behavioral analysts, said Monique Baker, a behavioral analyst and business owner who cares for 50 autistic children.

“Because of this, my company, along with 80% of the (applied behavioral analysis) companies in North Carolina, will continue to have long waiting lists, some of them up to 400 children, unless we pass this bill,” said Baker. She urged lawmakers to “reduce the unnecessary regulations that prevent children with autism from getting the services they urgently need”.

Behavioral analysts are licensed in more than 30 states, according to the Behavior Analysis Certification Board, and none of the other states that do not license such practitioners require supervision.

Former Republican MP Chuck McGrady has sponsored similar bills in previous legislative sessions and has received bipartisan support among lawmakers. The House passed Law 112-2 in 2019 but stood still in the Senate.

The North Carolina Psychological Association also supports the legislation.

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