Health and Human Services Secretary John Polanowicz commended the members of the Governor’s Special Commission Relative to Autism for their important work in developing and releasing their report.
Secretary Polanowicz was joined by Representative Danielle Gregoire, Autism Commission Chair and former Representative Barbara L’Italien, Assistant Secretary for The Office of Disability Policy and Programs Rosalie Edes and Department of Developmental Disabilities Commissioner Elin Howe.
“The Patrick-Murray Administration has deep appreciation for the dedicated and comprehensive work that went into the Autism Commission,” said Secretary Polanowicz. “At the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, we share in a commitment to children and families living with autism and we look forward to continuing our work together.”
HHS has a number of programs that have a proven track record of helping children and adults with autism. In particular, at the Department of Public Health early intervention program has been a national leader in providing specialized services for toddlers with a diagnosis of autism so that they can have the appropriate treatments as early as possible, and at the Department of Developmental Services, the work of the Division of Autism and the Children's Autism Medicaid Waiver Program, has established a foundation upon which we can build additional services for children and adults on the spectrum.
As next steps, Secretary Polanowicz will direct HHS agencies to continue to engage in meaningful dialogue with the members of the Commission so as to develop strategies to meet the goals articulated in the Commission’s Report. These include:
- Assessing the feasibility of expanding the eligibility criteria for the Department of Developmental Services to ensure that we comprehensively serve all individuals with developmental disabilities, including those with autism
- Examining what information and referral resources are currently available, what data systems are currently in use, and what can be better coordinated in this area
- Developing a task group to facilitate improved coordination of care management within HHS
- Strategizing to develop employment supports that are tailored to the unique needs of individuals with autism
- Determining what supports should be put into place to meet the needs of individuals with autism who need mental health and behavioral health services.
“Autism incidence is growing at an alarming rate, as evidenced by last week's CDC report which concluded as many as 1 in 50 school-age children are on the Autism Spectrum,” said Commission Chair L’Italien. “As a parent, former State Representative and Chair of the Autism Commission, I have first-hand experience and knowledge of the critical, often unmet needs of this growing population and its impact on individuals and their families. The Autism Commission report is a collaborative effort of bipartisan members of the legislature, state agencies, leading medical practitioners, educators, advocates and parents which details the current state of services and supports and recommends a ten-year blueprint to better manage the many challenges faced by children and adults with Autism. It is critical that Massachusetts take a comprehensive state-wide approach to the needs of this burgeoning population to allow them to live life to their fullest potential.”
The Autism Commission was created by Legislative Resolve in April 2010 and was given the broad charge of investigating individuals with autistic spectrum disorders and the range of services and supports necessary for those individuals to achieve their full potential across their lifespan, ranging from education, employment, housing, and health care.