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Combating Autism: Grant Programs

State Demonstrations and Policy: Washington State Department of Health Abstract

Abstract FY 2009

Project Title:  Autism Awareness: Partnership for Change
Applicant Name:  Washington State Department of Health
Applicant Name:  Washington State Department of Health, CSHCN Program
Address:  PO Box 47880 Olympia, WA 98504-7880
Project Director:  Maria Nardella, CSHCN Program Manager

Phone:  360-236-3573


Autism is a complex, lifelong neurodevelopmental disability typically appearing during the first three years of life. Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) affect approximately 8,138 to 11,894 children and youth in Washington State.  Contrary to earlier beliefs, autism is highly treatable through comprehensive, evidence based medical and educational treatments that impact brain development.  These treatments include speech, language, and communication therapy, occupational and physical therapy, Applied Behavior Analysis, and medications that reduce anxiety, obsessive-compulsive, and repetitive behaviors.  Many health care providers and other important decision makers who shape the health care system lack a current knowledge of autism, and lack awareness of “state of the art” treatment options and resources available.  According to Autism Task Force (ATF) panelists, this lack of awareness may contribute to physician hesitancy to diagnose; unwillingness on the part of insurers to finance care; and creates a burden for families who must navigate their child’s health care and transition to adult life on their own.  Early screening, diagnosis, and intervention are essential in order to provide optimal outcomes for children with autism and related developmental disabilities.

Proposed services:

The purposes of this grant are to:

  • Engage and empower new stakeholders.  We (Washington State Department of Health, CSHCN program) will build on the existing work of the ATF, and partner with existing and new, diverse family and professional stakeholders, to create an Autism Advisory Council that will guide the work of this project.
  • Coordinate training for providers and families through two Summits and a national learning collaborative (NLC) and with an in-state NLC.  We will develop an autism learning collaborative; engaging primary care providers, pediatricians, nurses, psychologists, families and individuals with autism to better meet the needs of people who experience autism, and the providers who serve them. The learning collaborative will exist through a Medical Home approach.
  • Impact existing benefit systems for children with ASD.  We will work with Medicaid, the Department of Health, and other public agencies including Family Voices and the Family to Family Health Information Center, to inform and educate families, providers, and the State Legislature about autism. We will continuously explore financing opportunities.

Population group to be served:  Through this project, we will serve (1) Families of children with ASD and developmental disabilities, (2) Children and youth with ASD and developmental disabilities, (3) Primary care providers, pediatricians, nurses, psychologists, ASD sub-specialists; (4) Twenty-one Medical Home Leadership Network teams; (5) State agencies, and (6) Local community care coordinators and autism related family support organizations.