State Budget Deal Fails to Provide Vital Therapies to Children with Autism

For Immediate Release
June 12, 2013
For More Information Contact:
Michele Stillwell-Parvensky, (510) 663-1294 Isobel White, (510) 828-3554 Kristin Jacobson, (650) 759-5737 Karen Fessel, (510) 325-0975

State reneges on its promises to children transitioning from Healthy Families to Medi-Cal who have had vital services disrupted

SACRAMENTO, CA– A coalition of children’s health and autism support organizations expressed deep disappointment that the state budget deal reached by Governor Jerry Brown and legislative leadership fails to include $50 million to pay for medically necessary autism services for children in Medi-Cal. The funding, which was previously approved by the Senate Budget Committee but was voted down Monday by the Budget Conference Committee, would have provided Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) services for children with autism who are enrolled in Medi-Cal.

The budget deal is particularly devastating for hundreds of children with autism who lost access to vital therapies when they were moved by the state from the Healthy Families Program to Medi-Cal. Governor Brown’s Administration has continually promised legislators, stakeholders, federal officials, and families that no children would lose access to services during the multi-phase transition of over 900,000 children from Healthy Families to Medi-Cal. Despite these promises and continuity of care requirements explicitly written into the law that authorized the transition, services were abruptly terminated for many vulnerable children.

“Particularly at a time when the state’s fiscal outlook is improving, it isunjust to pass a budget that continues to deprivechildren of medically necessary care and causes serious harm to children with autism and their families,” said Jamila Iris Edwards, Northern California Director of Children’s Defense Fund-California. “The State has broken its promise that no child would lose access to critical health care in the Healthy Families transition. The Governor and Legislature must act quicklyto remedy the current situation and ensurethese children get the services they need to grow up healthy and ready to learn.”

Rachel Harris, a mother from Orange County who has experienced this disruption directly, explained “It has been nearly 2 months since my son Daniel had his ABA services taken away without warning when he transitioned from Healthy Families to Medi-Cal. Our application is still in process at regional center and DHCS has not responded to any of our pleas for help. We really have no where left to turn. I am trying to tend to my son and help him cope day to day, but I cannot ignore the effect this has on the rest of my family. It is nearly impossible without the ABA therapy on which we depended. We are devastated that the State has broken its promises to our son and our family to provide a smooth transition with no interruption in therapies. We would be incredibly grateful if services were restored for our son during such a crucial time in his development.”

Kristin Jacobson, President and Co-Founder of Autism Deserves Equal Coverage, noted that the state recognizes that children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are harmed by delays and interruptions to behavioral health treatment services: “In August 2012,when it passed emergency regulations specifically to ensure children with ASD in Healthy Families had access to ABA services that are available in all other state-regulated health insurance settings, the state cited ‘imminent, serious, and irreparable harm to the public’ if these services were not available. Less than a year later, how canthe Administration allow these children and others in Medi-Cal to be exposed to the same irreparable harm?”

Alice Mayall, a mother of three from Livermore, has also lost access to ABA services for her son. “Every day that my son goes without services is a massive loss to his health and well-being and it directly affects our family,” she stated. “The process of trying to get solid answers from different agencies and advocating for continuation of care has been tortuous.”


Children Now
Ted Lempert, President – Contact Elizabeth Cavagnaro at 510-763-2444 x104 to speak to Ted, or contact Ted directly at 510-763-2444 x155 or 650-245-8166 Kelly Hardy, Director, Health Policy– 510-763-2444 x126

The Children’s Partnership
Wendy Lazarus, Founder and Co-President – Contact Carrie Spencer at 310-260-1220 to speak to Wendy, or contact Wendy directly at 310-710-9830

Children’s Defense Fund California
Jamila Edwards, Northern California Director of Children’s Defense Fund-California – 510-663-3780
 Alliance of California Autism Organizations
Kristin Jacobson, Steering Committee representative - 650-759-5737 
 California Coverage & Health Initiatives
Suzie Shupe, Executive Director – 707-527-9213 
 Autism Health Insurance Project
Karen Fessel, Executive Director – 510-325-0975 
 Autism Deserves Equal Coverage
Kristin Jacobson, Co-Founder and President - 650-759-5737