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Combating Autism: Grant Programs

State Demonstrations and Policy: University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center

Abstract FY 2009

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are lifelong developmental disabilities, characterized by marked difficulties in social interaction, communication skills and restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior. Data from the 2007 report of the Autism Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate an average estimated prevalence of ASD might be as high as 1 in 150 children.

New Mexico is a large rural state with a culturally diverse population. The ability to provide effective and intensive services for children and youth with ASD has been challenging. These challenges range from lack of provider expertise, funding of intensive services and coordination of services across various state systems. The Center for Development & Disability (CDD), Autism Programs has taken a leadership role in this area for several years. In 2004, the CDD received funding from the Center for Health Care Strategies to conduct a statewide needs assessment and develop a NM Preliminary Statewide Action Plan for ASD. Results indicated concerns about the lack of provider expertise in ASD in local communities, the difficulty in accessing current information about ASD, difficulty of obtaining appropriate services for children and the challenges of coordinating health care and education plans.

Parents, advocates, professionals and others were involved in a successful grassroots effort in 2007 to lobby for additional funds for autism training and services. As a result of this effort, the New Mexico Autism Taskforce (NMAT) was created. This interagency group was initially charged with identifying gaps in service delivery and determining approximate costs to develop a system of care for ASD in NM. Lawmakers were responsive; $4.2 million in new dollars were allocated in 2008 for autism services, training to professionals and parents and respite for families. With new services and expanded training capabilities, the need for comprehensive and coordinated system of care becomes even more critical.

Given New Mexico’s commitment to this population evidenced by recent legislative appropriations, the interagency NMAT, and an established ASD statewide action plan, our state is positioned to develop a State Implementation Project to address coordination. The CDD Autism Programs proposes to develop five ASD Regional Resource Centers (ASD-RRCs) to support the development of a regional medical home for ASD. These Centers will be housed physically within the Department of Health’s regional offices and will utilize existing state personnel thus embedding this project into already existing state systems. Goals of this project will include:

1. Establish five ASD Regional Resource Centers (ASD-RRCs) throughout New Mexico.
2. Establish the linkages that support a medical home in each region of New Mexico to increase access to available supports, resources, and services for children and youth with ASD and their families.
3. Create a plan for sustainability of the ASD-RRCs.