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Governor's Budget Includes Funds for People Living with Autism

The Governor has included some additional funds to help people living with autism in North Carolina in his budget proposal. (tangle eye/
The Governor has included some additional funds to help people living with autism in North Carolina in his budget proposal. (tangle eye/
April 14, 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. - While he continues to take heat for the controversial House Bill 2, Governor Pat McCrory is getting some praise this week for parts of his budget, which include additional spending to benefit people living with autism.

This week, the governor announced an expansion of funds for Medicaid Innovations Waivers that will create an additional 250 slots for people with developmental disabilities. David Laxton, director of communications for the Autism Society of North Carolina, said everyone wins with the program expansion.

"They will be able to be better learners," he said. "They'll have better communication skills. They'll be better able to manage their daily lives, but also for the families, it's not going to be as much of a financial burden and, overall, it will be cost-effective for our state."

There are as many as 12,000 people on the Innovations Waiver Program waiting list, with some waiting as long as 10 years. In addition, the governor announced that the state will submit a plan to the federal government by fall to include evidence-based therapies for people on the autism spectrum in services available. April is Autism Awareness Month.

According to the Autism Society of North Carolina, the Tar Heel State has a higher rate of autism compared with the national average. Laxton said it's important to remember because so many therapies currently are not covered by insurance and public assistance, and families are left to bear the burden.

"If you have a family member who is on the autism spectrum, you're going to have a lot more bills than most folks," he added. "Families who have a child with autism, the average costs, some of the estimates have been $2 to $3 million more than what a typical child's costs will be over their lifetime."

There are one-and-a-half million people in the U.S. who have an autism spectrum disorder. In North Carolina, there are at least 60,000 people.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC