Gov. Tomblin Signs WV Autism Bill - Clarksburg, Morgantown: News, Sports, Weather

Gov. Tomblin Signs WV Autism Bill

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April is Autism Awareness month, and Governor Earl Ray Tomblin kicked it off Monday by signing a bill to help kids with autism receive the treatment they need.

The bill gives families many more options when it comes to treating children with autism. Gov. Tomblin signed the bill in front of a room full of people who not only supported the bill, but those that will benefit from it as well at West Virginia University's Center for Excellence in Disabilities.

"This is one of the primary areas in West Virginia where this training can be received for autistic children, and Dr. (Susannah) Poe does a great job running the program here," Tomblin said, "and we thought it'd just be appropriate for people to get to know a little more about the program that's offered here at WVU."

Dr. Susannah Poe directs the autism program at the CED, and she was one of the advocates for the legislation.

"This bill is going to make a enormous difference in the life of children who have autism," she said.

The program at the CED offers the kind of intensive treatment that the bill will now cover. It allows for three years of intensive treatment up to $30,000. After that, the bill covers up to $24,000 in treatments until they're 18.

"For families that have gone from limited services and long waiting lists, these children will new have an opportunity to have a much broader range of evidence- based services," Poe said. "We're thrilled."

Tomblin said an estimated one out of every 91 children has been diagnosed with autism, and at that number the cost of the bill can seem high. Tomblin said the state will be saving money in the long run.

Poe agreed and said the real benefit will be made in the life of that child and its family.

"We spend money when they're little, and we save millions as they get older," Poe said, "because most of these children can learn to become independent, and will be able to hold jobs and support themselves."

The CED also received a grant to train people in West Virginia on the implementation of the new bill.