Licensing bill would broaden access to behavioral analysis treatments, supporters say | State

John and Melissa Buckley’s son was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder when he was about 18 months old.

Buckley’s son was born five weeks premature and missed several developmental milestones. But in the spring and summer of 2020, Buckley and his wife recognized signs of autism. It could not walk or speak, did not respond to his name, and was not interested in playing.

“Perhaps these are all things you want to see,” said John Buckley.

They had their son evaluated, and the diagnosis was like an earthquake for the Lower Macungie Township couple, said John Buckley.

Nearly two years later, the Buckleys’ son began attending preschool this fall, primarily in classrooms with peers without ASD. John Buckley said a treatment widely used among children with autism called Applied Behavior Analysis led to his son’s developmental explosion.

“I strongly believe my son would not have been able to attend a school that is almost entirely neurotypical without ABA therapy,” he said.

John and Melissa Buckley’s daughter, now 18 months old, has been diagnosed with ASD and is undergoing Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy to help her learn to communicate. John and Melissa Buckley have said they do not want their children’s names published to protect their privacy.

Pennsylvania is one of about 20 states that does not have a board-certified behavior analyst license, despite being a groundbreaking new field for families like the Buckleys.

So, in addition to the Commonwealth not overseeing the field, health insurance often does not pay for applied behavior analysis treatments, making it more difficult for some patients to access and purchase. increase.

The bill passed the House in February with bipartisan support. However, he has not moved from the State Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensing Committee since.

Mehaffie said the legislation could open up the benefits of applied behavior analysis therapy to a much broader range of patients, if therapists could be licensed, as it would allow them to negotiate payments with health insurance companies. said.

Treatment for children with autism spectrum disorders may be covered by private health insurance or medical assistance under the Autism Insurance Act, which mandates coverage for autism-related services.

When a person with ASD turns 21, insurance may no longer cover treatment.

“We have spent hundreds of thousands, even millions, of dollars on children with autism, and when they turn 21, the support is gone,” says Mehaffie.

In addition to adults with ASD, applied behavior analysis can be used to treat a variety of behavioral health disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder and substance use disorders, Mehaffie said.

“Why not open up as many venues as possible?” Mehafee said. “We have so many problems with behavioral health.”

Penn State University offers an Applied Behavior Analysis curriculum on its Harrisburg campus, but many graduates leave Pennsylvania to practice elsewhere because they find it difficult to get paid through insurance programs. Yes, says Mehaffie.

With only seven days left in the scheduled session, along with a tight timeline for introducing the bill in the Senate, Governor Tom Wolf was a staunch opponent of the new professional licensing requirements.

In a statement, a Wolf spokesperson said the governor worked on professional licensing reform early in his administration.

The administration said licensing requirements would determine whether unregulated professional practice endangers the public, whether it limits access to the profession, and whether it constitutes an undue burden on those wishing to practice in the profession. I have decided that it should be based on

“The Governor’s Office, the Department of Human Services, and the Department of State are engaged with key sponsors and stakeholders of this measure and have expressed concern that it may significantly limit the ability of children in need of medical assistance. Behavioral Services,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson added that Wolf will review the bill if it arrives at the desk.

Keith Williams, executive director of the Penn ABA, which promotes the practice of applied behavior analysis in Pennsylvania, said the law is primarily a consumer protection measure.

“Having a license helps protect your family because you have someone to monitor people working with vulnerable people,” Williams said.

Applied behavior analysis is also relatively new as a therapy, Williams says, but the basic principles were established in the 1950s and 1960s.

“In recent decades, it’s become more prominent to try to help people with special needs,” Williams said. I would never have.”

John Buckley said the treatment his son and daughter received had a very positive impact on their lives.

For young children like the Buckley family, applied behavior analysis therapy is primarily play-based, presenting the children with decisions to make and rewarding them for appropriate responses.By John Buckley And parents are involved so they can continue practicing at home.

His son still receives about 30 hours of therapy a week. And John Buckley quit his job at the Allentown law firm to make time for his children’s therapy.

“This is a full-time job. It’s a big job,” said John Buckley. “It’s great for him to be able to maintain these gains that he’s achieved. It’s so rewarding to watch.” Licensing bill would broaden access to behavioral analysis treatments, supporters say | State

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