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NV Lawmakers Asked to Increase Funding for Autism Treatment

PHOTO: Lawmakers in Nevada are being asked to increase funding to help treat thousands of children with autism and related disorders. Photo courtesy Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
PHOTO: Lawmakers in Nevada are being asked to increase funding to help treat thousands of children with autism and related disorders. Photo courtesy Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
May 7, 2014

LAS VEGAS - Nevada lawmakers are being asked to increase funding to help treat thousands of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders.

Jan Crandy, chairwoman of the Nevada Commission on Autism Spectrum Disorders, is among those addressing the Interim Legislative Committee on Health Care today in Las Vegas. More funding is needed, she said, because the state is treating fewer than 300 children with autism when there are thousands more who need help.

"Nevada school districts indicate they have 5,145 children with an eligibility of autism," she said.

Crandy said her organization wants state leaders to pursue federal Medicaid funding for autism treatment that would cover 60 percent of the program's cost, whereas the current program is funded 100 percent by Nevada taxpayers. Crandy said "Applied Behavior Analysis," a main treatment for autism, can help children function best in life when they're treated early enough.

Autism and related disorders affect one in 68 children, Crandy said, while two decades ago these conditions were thought to affect one in 10,000.

"Right now, there's no one cause of autism, just as there's no one type of autism," she said. "However, it appears to be triggered by a combination of autism risk genes and environmental factors, influencing early brain development."

Attorney Jon Sasser with the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, who also will speak at today's hearing, said failing to treat children with autism when they are young could create greater costs for the state in the future.

"All of the evidence shows that the earlier you get to these kids and the earlier you treat them, the better chances for a successful outcome," he said. "We save money down the road, because if we don't intervene early, then we may have these kids in our institutions as adults, and have a long-term cost to the state."

A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirms the number of children diagnosed with autism has increased nearly 30 percent in the past five years.

Today's meeting will begin at 9 a-m, at the Grant Sawyer State Office Building, 555 E. Washington Ave., Las Vegas. More information on the meeting is online at leg.state.nv.us.

Troy Wilde, Public News Service - NV