Loving mother & dedicated entrepreneur Korri Ward is proud to have raised two sons who are now 30 years old. The eldest, Darrick, completed his master’s degree at UNR and is now thriving in a fulfilling career with the federal government. Meanwhile, Doug has become an independent business owner of a small candy machine company, living a comfortable life in a duplex that was lovingly built by Korri and her husband to support him.

Autism Diagnosis

The Two sons were both diagnosed with autism at the tender age of 5, and since then, Korri has devoted her life to ensuring they receive the best care possible. It’s great to see that their hard work has paid off, and both sons are thriving in their own unique paths. However, as adults with autism, they still require specialized support treatment.

It’s a difficult undertaking for adults with autism to receive support, given that according to the state law of Nevada, health insurance companies are obligated to screen and provide treatment for autism only for individuals below 18 years old. In exceptional cases, coverage may be extended until the age of 22 if the individual is enrolled in high school. This poses a significant challenge for adults with autism, such as Doug and Darrick.

SB191 during the 2023 legislative session

Senator  Heidi Seevers Gansert, an advocate for individuals with autism, saw how this issue affected families in Nevada and took action by sponsoring and passing SB191 during the 2023 legislative session. For those unfamiliar with the subject, Bill SB191 seeks to expand access to crucial ABA services for individuals with autism. In the past, individuals aged out of coverage at 21 years old, but this bill extends coverage to those receiving Medicaid to the age of 27. This government-funded health insurance is essential for low-income families and those with disabilities.

Data from the CDC revealed that on average, medical expenses for individuals with autism can reach upwards of $6,000 annually. This accounts for direct healthcare costs as well as educational, therapeutic expenses. As for intensive behavioral interventions, studies show they can cost up to $60,000 per child each year.

The reason for the cost

The price is attributable to the hours required for treatments, which can range anywhere from 10-40 hours per week. It all depends on the severity of a child’s autistic symptoms. Halligan, the highly-respected founder and director of the prestigious Las Vegas Autism Center, further emphasized that a considerable amount of these expenses can be linked to the demanding certification and instruction standards for therapists who administer ABA therapy.

This includes certification through the Behavior Analyst Certification Board, which involves specific exams and supervised training hours ranging from 40-1,800 depending on the therapist’s level of certification. Such specialized and extensive training is necessary in order for therapists to accurately and effectively provide ABA therapy to individuals with autism.

Other Fundings

It is this cost that prompted Halligan to collaborate with the state’s Board of Applied Behavior Analysis in order to work alongside Seevers Gansert on upcoming legislation that will take effect next year. While this new legislation only applies to individuals covered by Medicaid, there are also funding and resources available through the Nevada Autism Treatment Assistance Program (ATAP) for families with children under 20 years of age. This shows the efforts being made to make ABA therapy more accessible and affordable for families with children on the autism spectrum.

Nevada Autism

Besides the legislation and resources, there are also dedicated organizations such as the Nevada Autism Center that work tirelessly towards advocating for individuals with autism and their families.

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