2007 Regular Session
By: Representative Akins, Holland, Eaton, Rotenberry, Gadd, Lane, Turner
AN ACT TO CREATE THE CARING FOR MISSISSIPPI INDIVIDUALS WITH AUTISM TASK FORCE; TO PROVIDE FOR THE MEMBERSHIP OF THE TASK FORCE; TO SET FORTH THE DUTIES OF THE TASK FORCE; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
WHEREAS, autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three (3) years of life and is part of a group of disorders known as Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD); and
WHEREAS, as of the effective date of this act, at least one (1) in one hundred sixty-six (166) individuals in the United States is diagnosed with autism, making it more common than the occurrences in our population of pediatric cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined; and
WHEREAS, autism impairs a person's ability to communicate and relate to others; is associated with rigid routines and repetitive behaviors, such as obsessively arranging objects or following very specific routines; is four (4) times more likely to strike boys than girls; and occurs in all racial, ethnic and social groups; and
WHEREAS, symptoms of the disability can range from very mild to quite severe, and autistic behaviors not only make life difficult for those individuals who suffer from the disability, but also make life hard for their families, health care providers and teachers; and
WHEREAS, families coping with this devastating illness are searching for answers about its causes, diagnosis, prevention and treatment, and while there is no known means to prevent the disability, there are indications that early intervention in an appropriate educational setting for at least two (2) years during the preschool years can result in significant improvements for many young children with the disorder; and
WHEREAS, the Mississippi Legislature recognizes that strategies for how to best identify, treat and accommodate the needs of individuals with autism and of their families are urgently needed in our state; NOW, THEREFORE,
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. (1) The Caring for Mississippi Individuals with Autism Task Force is created to study and make recommendations to the Mississippi Legislature regarding the growing incidence of autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), how to identify, treat and accommodate the needs of individuals with autism and ASD, and ways to improve the delivery and coordination of state services provided to individuals with autism and ASD. Members of the task force shall be composed of the following:
(a) Three (3) persons who are the parents of children with autism or ASD, with one (1) such person to be appointed by the Governor, one (1) to be appointed by the Lieutenant Governor, and one (1) to be appointed by the Speaker of the House;
(b) One (1) person who is a member of the governing body of a school district, to be appointed by the State Superintendent of Public Education;
(c) One (1) person who represents the State Department of Education, to be appointed by the State Superintendent of Public Education;
(d) One (1) person who is the director of special education services in a school district, to be appointed by the State Superintendent of Public Education;
(e) One (1) person who is a representative of the State Department of Mental Health, to be appointed by the executive director of the department;
(f) Three (3) persons who are representatives of the State Department of Mental Health who are from regions in the state that provide services to individuals with autism or ASD, to be appointed by the executive director of the department;
(g) One (1) person who is a representative of the University of Mississippi Medical Center and who provides medical or other services to individuals with autism or ASD, to be appointed by the Vice Chancellor of the University of Mississippi Medical Center;
(h) Two (2) persons who are Mississippi pediatricians engaged in the private practice of medicine and who provide treatment to individuals with autism or ASD, to be appointed by the Vice Chancellor of the University of Mississippi Medical Center;
(i) Two (2) persons who are licensed therapists appointed by the President of the Mississippi Speech Language and Hearing Association.
(2) The task force shall:
(a) Review the best practices of other states with regard to educational, medical and early intervention services provided to individuals diagnosed with autism or ASD and identify the best practices of other states;
(b) Review the standard of services provided by local Mississippi school districts and early intervention programs to individuals diagnosed with autism or ASD, identify any additional potential funding sources for school districts, and identify guidelines for measurable educational and instructional goals that can be used by members of the education community for serving children with autism or ASD;
(c) Assess the medical availability of services currently provided for early screening, diagnosis and treatment of autism and ASD and provide recommendations for enhancing medical services;
(d) Identify the role of higher education in developing a workforce in Mississippi possessing the skills necessary to assist individuals with autism or ASD in medical, educational, and vocational efforts or in providing additional services associated with autism or ASD;
(e) Evaluate and identify any and all additional relevant information and make legislative recommendations regarding the development and implementation of a continuum of educational and medical services for individuals with autism or ASD; and
(f) File a report with those standing committees of the Mississippi State Legislature and with those state agencies having jurisdiction over specific recommendations of the task force, not later than December 1, 2007.
(3) The task force shall hold its first meeting not later than April 1, 2007, with the date, time and location of the meeting to be designated by the Governor. At that first meeting, the task force shall elect from among its membership a chairman, vice chairman and any other officers determined to be necessary, and shall set the date, time and location of its next meeting.
(4) The State Department of Mental Health shall provide the staff and other support necessary for the Caring for Mississippi Individuals with Autism Task Force to perform its duties.
SECTION 2. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after its passage.