Senate Approves S2245: Relative to assisting individuals with autism and other intellectual or developmental disabilities

 July 17, 2014
Posted by M&LAdmin4

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Hi everyone, and welcome to our blog! We hope you have all had a happy and productive week – we certainly have, what with preparing for our Housing Update Seminar next week, and taking more and more steps towards realizing our goal of developing special needs housing in Maryland. If you would like more information on our event, or our ongoing housing development project, please don’t hesitate to contact us!

This week, we would like to switch gears a little and write about an important event that occurred last week in the state of Massachusetts; here at M&L, we are happy to report that the MA Senate has finally approved an incredibly important bill: S2245, Relative to assisting individuals with Autism and other intellectual disabilities. This bill, an earlier, slightly different version of which was passed by the House in April (H4047), is an important step forward for individuals with disabilities in this state. It also represents an important victory for disability advocates in the area who work tirelessly to improve the lives of individuals with disabilities. For those of you who are out of state, or perhaps have yet to hear about this bill, let’s begin with a brief history. As mentioned, a version of this bill, H4047 was first introduced in the House on April 15th of this year, and then passed unanimously on the 16th of the same month. The version passed this last week is slightly different from the original version, so it is important to note that these two versions need to be reconciled, and signed by the governor into law.

What does this bill mean for individuals with disabilities in MA?

This legislation was the result of a concentrated effort on the part of various special needs organizations and advocates in Massachusetts. This bill, which represents a “huge step forward in the realm of disability rights”, addresses many issues that individuals with disabilities face as they attempt to save for the future, access important services, advocate for respect and dignity, and pave the way for better futures for themselves and those to follow in the next generation. Specifically, some of the more important aspects of the bill address financial planning, government benefit programs, special education, and legislation regarding the protection of individuals with disabilities while receiving government services, among many other issues. Some of the more important highlights include[i]:

– Making the Special Commission Relative to Autism (more commonly known as The Autism Commission) a permanent oversight body. Note: The Autism Commission was established by Legislative Resolve and approved by Governor Patrick on April 22, 2010. It was charged to make an investigation and study relative to individuals with autistic spectrum disorders, which shall include, but not be limited to Asperger’s syndrome, high functioning autism and pervasive development disorder and to investigate and study the range of services and supports necessary for individuals to achieve their full potential across their lifespan. The Commission consists of 31 members appointed by the Governor. For more information, please visit their website.

– Creating special savings and expense accounts to receive tax benefits for expenditures that benefit an individual with a disability

– Expanding the mission of DDS (Developmental Disability Services) to include adults with developmental disabilities

– Encouraging cooperation between DDS and DMH (Department of Mental Health) to provide mental health services to those with developmental disabilities

– Creating an endorsement in autism to certify teachers who are qualified to assist students with autism

– Extending insurance coverage for autism services to MassHealth (Medicaid)

– Requiring the Autism Commission to report on employment and housing opportunities for people with autism in the Commonwealth

Would You Like More Information?

If you are interested in learning more about this bill, you can access the full text on the Commonwealth of Massachusetts website via this link. You may also wish to contact any of the various special needs organizations in the state, many of which played a vital role in the passing of the legislation. Some of these organizations include: The AANE (Asperger’s Association of New England) Advocacy Committee The Arc of Massachusetts Disability Law Center

If you are interested in learning more about how you can help your child with a disability on the right path towards a successful future, whether it is through financial planning, life planning, independent living, post-secondary, transitioning, or employment, please contact us! Our team of experts is available to help you every step of the way through your special needs journey. Please check out our website, including our Services Page, and our Workshop Series, to learn more about the specific services we provide.

Thanks again to everyone who dropped by the blog this week! Please join us next week as we take a detailed look at what else congress is doing to help individuals with disabilities realize their full potential, and lead happy, successful lives. Have a great Thursday!


 

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