Missouri Creates Office of Autism Services and Commission on Autism Spectrum Disorders

July 30, 2008

Serving as acting governor, Missouri Lieutenant Governor Peter Kinder signed a measure into law June 23 that creates an Office of Autism Services in the state's Division of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities in the Department of Mental Health.

The Office of Autism Services (OAS) is charged with providing leadership in program development for children and adults with autism spectrum disorders, including the establishment of program standards and coordination of program capacity.

Julia Kaufmann was hired to serve as Director of the Office of Autism and can be contacted by calling (573) 526-3848 or sending an email to Julia Kaufmann.

Missouri Commission on Autism. Senate Bill 768 also establishes the Missouri Commission on Autism Spectrum Disorders to advise the governor, legislators, and relevant state agencies regarding all state levels of autism spectrum disorder services, including healthcare, education, and other adult and adolescent services. Further, the commission is responsible for developing a comprehensive statewide plan for an integrated system of training, treatment, and services for individuals of all ages with autism spectrum disorders. Commission membership will consist of 24 members appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the senate with representation by two parents of individuals who have autism; two self-advocates; 11 state departments; both houses of the legislature; and educational, therapeutic, and healthcare providers.

Senate Bill 768 was the result of recommendations made by the Blue Ribbon Panel on Autism formed last year by the state's legislature. The 16-person panel consisted of lawmakers, parents, doctors, health officials, and educators who were charged with creating a roadmap for improving state services for individuals with autism and their families. Their report was presented in December and can be viewed online at can be viewed online here.

Last year, $3.9 million in new funding was allotted to shorten the waiting lists for families seeking services for early intervention and diagnoses of autism, Lieutenant Governor Kinder said. That funding alone more than doubled previous dollars granted for autism diagnoses, treatment, and research. This year, $12.4 million in new funding has been secured for services relating to autism _ including funding to help build a world-class treatment facility at the Thompson Center in Columbia, in the central part of the state.