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COTA Limited Edition United States Grand Prix Poster Supports AST!
Starting October 22nd through 31st, when you donate $19 or more to AST at this special link you will receive a limited edition USGP 11” x17” print of a painting by Jack, a young artist on the spectrum who is passionate about Formula 1. This print is a special collaboration between Jack and Circuit of The Americas! A message from Jack’s mom: Jack is 14 years old and has autism spectrum disorder, selective mutism and epilepsy disorder. During the pandemic he struggled to self-regulate with his emotions, so he started painting to express his feelings. Jack soon developed a love for Formula One, and he then started to create 3D models of the race cars using modelling paste. This began to open many doors for Jack to communicate with other artists. In 2021 Jack was diagnosed with active epilepsy disorder. Though it’s his dream to attend a Formula One race, we know that this environment would not be ideal for us as a family as the crowds are big and there is lot of energy and excitement. His anxiety would be very high, and he would be prone to seizures and may wander away from his family. The next best option for Jack then is to share his love for F1 by creating art. Painting pictures of cars and the drivers has helped Jack feel close to the sport, and when he closes his eyes he can imagine that he is at a race. It makes us happy as a family to support other parents who have dreams for their children. So when Circuit of The Americas offered Jack the opportunity to paint a poster for the F1 United States Grand Prix – which is being sold to raise money to improve the lives of families affected by autism – he of course he said “YES!” In the words of Jack: “I like to show I care, and I do this through my paintings. Sharing is caring and I like to do that!”

Click here to donate now & receive your limited edition COTA poster by Jack! 

October News

Our October Newsletter is out – read about AutFest early bird deadline, Putt Fore Autism, new support groups, and more! Read more here. 

Subscribe here.

September News

Our September 2021 newsletter has great information about AutFest Texas happening in Dallas, Houston & Austin (and a virtual option!), the AUTonomy panel discussion series, and support groups happening across the state!

Read it here.

Subscribe here.

August News

Our August newsletter has great information about AutFest Texas happening in Dallas, Houston & Austin (and a virtual option!), our new AUTonomy education series, and new support groups!

Read it here.
Subscribe here.

Medicaid Update!

Thanks to everyone’s advocacy efforts during the 87th Texas Legislative Session, the ABA Medicaid benefit was funded and is finally moving forward! ABA Provider enrollment is now open, and the program is scheduled to start on Feb. 1, 2022. Although the ABA Medicaid benefit did not get the full amount of funding needed, and reimbursement rates are lower than many providers hoped for, we are happy to see expanded therapy options for families who rely on Medicaid for their children with autism. Additional family information on how to access the benefit will be coming soon. Read more here about the process to become a Medicaid provider.

Advocacy Action Alert: Congress Must Include Home & Community Based Services In the Budget

ADVOCACY ACTION ALERT!

Tell Your Members of Congress that Plans for $3.5 Trillion Spending Package Must Include Home & Community Based Services (HCBS)

BACKGROUND 

Medicaid is the largest source of funding for assistance with daily living for people with disabilities. Medicaid Home and community-based services (HCBS) have been grossly underfunded for decades causing long waiting lists and impacting the quality of care. The pandemic has exacerbated these problems.

People with disabilities and older adults have a higher risk of contracting and facing higher risks of complications due to COVID-19. HCBS programs struggled to continue to provide life-sustaining, daily, in-home services in the face of frontline staff shortages with a long history of low wages. These staff shortages and related risks imperil the lives of people with disabilities. Without the immediate and strong leadership of Congress and the Administration, these problems will get worse.

The workforce and earnings losses related to unpaid family caregiving are alarming and well-documented. Investing in HCBS services expansion will enable caregivers to rejoin the workforce as well as stimulate economic growth and job creation. Without the investment in services outlined in the Build Back Better Agenda, family caregivers will have to continue to fill in the huge gaps in the service system.

The temporary 10% increase to the Federal matching rate (FMAP) included in the American Rescue Plan Act is a critical first step to recover and strengthen access to Medicaid HCBS. However, we must build the infrastructure of home and community-based services desperately needed by people with disabilities and older adults now and in the future.

Better Care Better Jobs Act

On June 24, Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) introduced the Better Care Better Jobs Act (S.2210) with 39 co-sponsors. On the same day, Rep. Debbie Dingle (D-MI) introduced a companion bill in the House (H.R. 4231) with 29 co-sponsors. The bill puts into legislative language the vision within President Biden’s American Jobs Plan to provide a historic $400 billion investment into Medicaid home and community-based services (HCBS). (See more details in this fact sheet.)

This week, Senate Democratic leadership announced that they reached an agreement on a $3.5 trillion budget resolution that they will move through the reconciliation process. The outline of the legislative package includes numerous priorities that will support people with disabilities, including the investment in Medicaid home and community-based services (HCBS).

Congress is deciding right now whether to allocate the full $400 Billion for HCBS that is in President Biden’s Build Back Better recovery plan. The full $400 Billion is necessary to ensure HCBS is accessible and equitable.

ACTION NEEDED:

  • Contact your U.S. Representative/Congressperson & U.S. Senator. To find your U.S. representative/congressperson & senator, visit: https://wrm.capitol.texas.gov/home
  • Urge them to include and prioritize the $400 billion investment in the infrastructure of Medicaid home and community-based services (HCBS) as you negotiate the current budget reconciliation package. They must not negotiate away this important investment!
  • Provide personal stories about how HCBS helps you, your family, and your state.
  • Dial 202-224-3121 and ask to be connected with your member of Congress.
Take Action Now! Voting Rights Under Fire in the Special Session

Protect Voting Rights For All!

The Special Session in the Texas Legislature begins on July 8! AST expects that there will be voting bills that have the potential to negatively impact current disability voting rights. Thankfully the discriminatory bill that was proposed (SB 7) in the Regular Legislative Session did not pass. However, advocates expect that bill to be the foundation for the next proposed legislation during this special session.

More people with disabilities voted in the November 2020 election than ever before. The recently proposed voting laws will have unintended and negative effects on the  disability community’s ability to participate in the electoral process. The disability community should not have to provide extra documentation of health status, or be scrutinized and intimidated if needing assistance, or have to overcome any additional barriers in order to exercise their right to vote.

We need legislation that strengthens elections and does not inhibit the vote of people with disabilities and others who have been marginalized in the past.

Action-Who to Contact: 

Contact your own Texas State Senator and Representative, as well as Governor Greg Abbott, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, and Speaker Dade Phelan. 

Governor Greg Abbott: (512) 463-1762 or greg.abbott@gov.texas.gov

Lieutenant Governor, Dan Patrick: (512) 463-0001 or dan.patrick@ltgov.state.tx.us

Speaker of the House, Dade Phelan: (512) 463-0706 or dade.phelan@house.texas.gov

Find your own Texas Senator and House Representative here: https://wrm.capitol.texas.gov/home 

What to say:

“Don’t inhibit the vote of people with disabilities! Protect disability voting rights!” 

Let them know your concerns about potential new election legislation and that it is critical not to inhibit the right of people with disabilities to vote.

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Please note!  You will not be calling your federal representative or senator. (Do not call your U.S. Representative/Congressperson or U.S. Senator).

Let us know if you were successful or if AST Advocacy staff need to do any follow-ups at 512-479-4199 Ext. 10 or advocacy@texasautismsociety.org.

July News

Our July newsletter is out! Check out our new AUTonomy series, Autism Employment Empowerment Day, July 4th event & tips, and new groups!

Read it hereSubscribe here.

Advocacy Updates – Texas 87th Legislature Special Session

Advocacy Updates – Texas 87th Legislature

THANK YOU! Thanks to your efforts, the Autism Society of Texas was successful in several areas during the 87th Legislative session! Below is a summary of bills that became law. 

SPECIAL SESSION begins on July 8! The topics have not yet been designated, but it is expected that voting bills that have the potential to negatively impact disability voting rights will be on the call. Thankfully the discriminatory bill that was proposed (SB 7) in the Regular Session did not pass. However, we expect that bill to be the foundation for the next proposed legislation. Two more special sessions are also expected with one on distributing federal funds and the other on redistricting in the fall. We will keep you updated on new developments!

Budget


HB 1, Rider 21 | Fund the ABA/IBI Medicaid Benefit

HB 1, Rider 21 would ensure the ABA/IBI Medicaid benefit would be funded and that services can begin September 1, 2021.

Final Status:  ABA was included, but at a greatly reduced funding amount. Language was included to ensure that the Health and Human Services Commission would implement ABA services as soon as practicable, but not later than February 1, 2022.

Cannabis Compassionate Use Program


HB 567 | Protects Children Participating in the Compassionate Use Program from Being Removed from Their Home by Child Protective Services

HB 567 adds a new limitation on removals under Family Code, Section 262.116, that testing positive for marijuana use alone is not sufficient for removing a child from his or her home. Read the full bill text here: https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/87R/billtext/html/HB00567F.htm

Final Status:  HB 567 was signed in the Senate and the House, then sent to the Governor. The bill was filed without the Governor’s signature on 5/15/2021, and will go into effect 9/1/2021.

HB 1535 | Expand Texas Compassionate Use Act

HB 1535 expands the list of medical conditions and patients that qualify for low-THC medical cannabis prescriptions, increases the amount of permitted THC in medicines, and creates access for patients with debilitating medical conditions designated by the Department of State Health Services. Read the full bill text here:  https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/87R/billtext/html/HB01535F.htm

Final Status:  HB 1535 was signed by Governor Abbott on 6/15/2021, and will go into effect on 9/1/2021.

Special Education


HB 1252 | Expand Time Limit to Request Special Education Due Process Hearing

HB 1252 would align Texas law with federal law by expanding the statute of special education due process hearings from one year to two years. This would help parents and students with disabilities by expanding their ability to seek redress once they learn what their rights are and makes seeking redress an option available to them. Read the full bill text here: https://capitol.texas.gov/BillLookup/Text.aspx?LegSess=87R&Bill=HB1252

Final Status: HB 1252 was signed by Governor Abbott on 6/15/2021 and will go into effect on 9/1/2021.

HB 2256 | Will Create Bilingual Special Education Teacher Certification

HB 2256 would create a bilingual special education certification to teach students of limited English proficiency with disabilities. Read the full bill text here: https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/87R/billtext/html/HB02256S.htm

Final Status: HB 2256 was signed by Governor Abbott on 6/15/2021 and will go into effect on 9/1/2021.

SB 89 | Special Education COVID-19 Recovery Act

SB 89 amends current law relating to supplemental information required for inclusion with a written statement of an individualized education program developed for certain public school students who received special education services during the 2019-2020 or 2020-2021 school year. Read the full bill text here: https://capitol.texas.gov/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=87R&Bill=SB89

Final Status:  SB 89 was signed by Governor Abbott on 6/7/2021 and takes effect immediately.

HB 159 | Improve Teacher Training

HB 159 would improve training and staff development for primary and secondary educators to enable them to more effectively serve all students. The bill would specify what each educator is expected to know and be able to do, particularly with regard to students with disabilities. Read the full bill text here:  https://capitol.texas.gov/BillLookup/Text.aspx?LegSess=87R&Bill=HB159

Final Status:  HB 159 was signed by Governor Abbott on 6/4/2021 and will go into effect on 9/1/2021.

HB 785 | Annual Reviews of Behavioral Intervention Plans

HB 785 amends the Education Code by revising certain rules related to BIPs for students in special education. HB 785 would require that the parent or guardian be notified in writing if their student with a disability has a change in placement or is restrained, including a description of the incident and whether the student’s BIP should be revised to address the behavior that led to the change or restraint. If the student does not have a BIP, then it should also include information on requesting an ARD committee meeting to discuss the possibility of conducting a functional behavioral assessment and developing a plan for the student. This written notification and a record of how it was sent to the parent or guardian would also be placed in the student’s special education eligibility school records. Read the full bill text here:  https://capitol.texas.gov/BillLookup/Text.aspx?LegSess=87R&Bill=HB785

Final Status:  HB 785 was signed by Governor Abbott on 6/4/2021 and takes effect immediately.

SB 1697 | Allow Parents to Elect for a Student to Repeat or Retake a Course or Grade

SB 1697 requires that students who received a passing grade or earned credit for a high school course retain their original grade even if they retake the course, unless the school district adopts a local policy to the contrary. It also amends current law relating to allowing parents and guardians to elect for a student to repeat or retake a course or grade. Read the full bill text here: https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/87R/billtext/html/SB01697F.htm

Final Status:  SB 1697 was signed by Governor Abbott on 6/16/2021 and takes effect immediately.

SB 1716 | Supplemental Funds for Certain Special Education Students

SB 1716 makes permanent the SSES program, so that special education families across Texas have access to additional funding to support their child’s public school education. The filed version of the legislation allows any student in a Texas public school’s special education program to be eligible; however, TEA is directed to give priority to children receiving the compensatory education allotment, those with cognitive disabilities, and those eligible for the alternative STAAR exam. Read the full bill text here: https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/87R/billtext/html/SB01716F.htm

Final Status:  SB 1716 was signed by Governor Abbott on 6/18/2021 and takes effect immediately.

Healthcare

SB 40 | Allow Health Professionals to Provide Telehealth Services

SB 40 would clarify the authority of the Texas Commission of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR)-regulated health professionals (including speech therapists, occupational therapists, and BCBAs) to provide telehealth services in accordance with Chapter 111, Occupations Code; require a reference to a health professional performing “direct” observation of a patient to include provision of telehealth services; and allow TDLR to adopt rules governing telehealth services offered by its regulated professionals. Read the full bill text here: https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/87R/billtext/pdf/SB00040F.pdf#navpanes=0

Final Status:  SB 40 was signed by Governor Abbott on 6/3/2021 and takes effect immediately.

SB 1829 | Provide Electronic Medicaid MCO Directories

SB 1829 requires the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) to ensure Medicaid managed care organizations (MCOs) maintain an accurate electronic directory of contact information for Medicaid recipients enrolled in a managed care plan. MCOs are then required to send an electronic copy of the recipient directory to HHSC monthly to optimize engagement and increase efficiency. Read the full bill text here: https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/87R/billtext/html/SB01829F.htm

Final Status:  SB 1829 was signed by Governor Abbott on 6/7/2021 and takes effect immediately.

Restraints

Restraints are restrictions that immobilize or reduce the ability of a student to move their torso, arms, legs, or head freely. As we all know from painful recent events, control techniques such as chokeholds and face-to-the-ground (also known as prone restraint) can impede breathing and have deadly consequences. Restraints should not be used in lieu of evidence-based practices such as redirection and de-escalation techniques that all staff working with special populations, such as special education students, have been trained in. You can find our full statement on the death of Xavier Hernandez here: https://www.texasautismsociety.org/statement-on-xavier-hernandez/

Please take action by telling federal legislators to support the Keeping All Students Safe Act (KASSA) by completing the action alert here: https://takeaction.autism-society.org/autismsocietyofamerica/app/write-a-letter?0&engagementId=511914

 

SB 69 | Ban Chokeholds and Prone Restraint by Police Officers

SB 69 prohibits officers from applying deadly pressure to a person’s throat, neck, or torso, blocking a person’s nose or mouth, or impeding a person’s circulation unless the officer is protecting themselves or another person from serious bodily injury or death. Read the full bill text here: https://capitol.texas.gov/tlodocs/87R/analysis/html/SB00069F.htm

Final Status: SB 69 was signed by Governor Abbott on 6/14/2021 and will go into effect on 9/1/2021.