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Asking Lawmakers to "Fulfill The Promise"

April 16, 2008

Nashville, TN – April is "Autism Awareness Month," and advocates for Tennesseeans with disabilities have been pushing state lawmakers to fulfill a promise made years ago: to fund services for persons living with autism and other developmental disabilities.

The service programs were part of a state law passed in 2000. They were intended to help people with disabilities other than mental retardation, but lawmakers didn't follow up with funding for them. Amanda Peltz, executive director of the Autism Society of Middle Tennessee, says as a result, Tennessee has fallen behind other states in recognizing the need for these types of services.

"If our individuals on the autism spectrum don't have that mental retardation diagnosis, it is often difficult for them to get services, because they aren't seen as needing those services. We need the community to be better prepared to serve these individuals."

The "Fulfill the Promise" bill has passed the Senate, but reportedly faces an uphill battle in the House Budget Committee. Lawmakers have cited the tight state budget as the reason the law hasn't been funded.

Nationally, one in 150 people has Autism Spectrum Disorder, including more than 30,000 Tennesseeans. Therefore, Peltz contends, it is important for state lawmakers to make good their promise by funding programs that would help more people live productive lives, no matter what their type of disability.

Additional information is available online at www.tnautism.org.

Deborah Smith/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - TN