Autism bill receiving necessary support

By SLADE BLACKWELL / Guest Columnist

On March 14, I had the privilege of speaking at the Autism Legislative Day rally. It is always a pleasure seeing the sea of bright red shirts walking through the halls of the state house, knowing that they are here to fight for a worthy cause.

On this specific day, however, advocates for autism were there to support Senate Bill 283. I want to commend my colleague who sponsored this legislation, Sen. Cam Ward. The legislation would allow for insurance companies to cover therapy expenses for those diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

After speaking with several people that have been directly affected with ASD, I now understand the challenges they face each day with seeking affordable care.

Right now, families are forced to pay out of pocket for behavioral therapy, occupational therapy and cognitive therapy, among other therapeutic needs. This places an unfair financial burden on these families, just because their children were born with a developmental disability.

I am very encouraged by the support this bill is receiving, in large part due to the efforts of Sen. Ward and his wife, Julie. Their dedication and ability to rally around such a great cause is truly inspiring.

The Senate Health Committee met on March 15 and SB 283 passed unanimously with a 5-0 vote. We are now waiting for it to be placed on the special order calendar to be brought up for a full vote on the Senate floor. I hope through the passage of SB 283 we will see that people diagnosed with ASD are allowed access to the most affordable and appropriate treatment available.

Slade Blackwell is serving his first term in the Alabama State Senate, representing Jefferson and Shelby Counties in District 15. To contact Blackwell, call 396-1144.