Systems Change for ASD/DD in Washington State

December 10, 2013

The Washington Autism Advisory Council (WAAC) is now in its 5th year.  The Council was formed in 2009 to guide the work of the two competitive federal grants awarded under the Combating Autism Act of 2006: the WA State Department of Health Children with Special Health Care Needs Program and the UW LEND.  The mission of the WAAC is to "promote a coordinated statewide system of services and supports for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their families". The WAAC works to increase collaboration within the autism community and greater coordination among medical, educational, and mental health professionals. Council membership is comprised of individuals, advocates, and practitioners from state and local agencies, diagnostic centers including UW LEND, family members, self-advocates and other interested individuals. 

Two major achievements have resulted in systems change in Washington State:  Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy for children covered under Medicaid  and Community Asset Mapping (CAM). 

Members of the WAAC collaborated with the newly formed Washington State Health Care Authority (HCA) to develop and launch new Medicaid benefits for children with autism.  Children are referred to a Center of Excellence (COE) for evaluations and orders for ABA therapy to be performed by WA State licensed healthcare professionals. To date, 21 individuals or agencies have been approved as a COE.  Sixteen ABA providers have enrolled with Medicaid and are rendering services statewide.  Over 100 children covered by Medicaid are receiving ABA services.  The UW LEND program has been designated as a Center of Excellence and UW LEND clinicians are diagnosing and establishing the need for ABA therapy for children covered by Medicaid.

Community Asset Mapping (CAM) is a pilot project of the Washington Autism Advisory Council. CAM is supported through the UW LEND program, the Washington State Department of Health, and the Medical Home Leadership Network (MHLN).  The goal is to assure that children in rural and underserved communities with suspected ASD or other developmental delays have equitable and timely access to screening and evaluation services for early identification and diagnosis in locations as close to their homes as possible.

Currently, there are four CAM Communities across Washington state who have improved the early identification and diagnosis of children with autism and other developmental concerns by bringing together pediatricians and other primary care providers, families, educators, public health, early intervention, and other service providers in their communities. This includes working with the multidisciplinary diagnostic centers across the state, the local school districts, community health providers, early childhood providers, public health and many others. It also includes identifying the training and technical assistance needs of communities in an effort to improve the early identification of developmental concerns for all children, and providing that training locally.

WAAC members continue to work together to improve diagnostic and treatment services for children and adults with or suspected of ASD.