The new facility to house The Emerge School for Autism, the first tuition-free school for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Louisiana, is under construction on Innovation Park Drive in Baton Rouge, La., on Jan. 6, 2020.

Autism is more prevalent than ever. Yet, it's growing harder for children with autism to access the mental health care they need.

Fifteen million Americans could lose Medicaid now that the COVID-19 public health emergency has ended, including many children with autism who have come to rely on Medicaid for care.

State leaders must do everything they can to make sure that kids with autism continue to have access to the care they need.

There is no cure for autism, but certain therapies can help children with autism communicate, socialize and improve their quality of life. Those therapies are the heart of Applied Behavior Analysis, the gold-standard therapy for autism. I work with kids with autism as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. I've witnessed ABA help nonverbal children talk for the first time. I've seen children learn how to express their frustration and communicate their joy because of ABA.

Commercial insurers, meanwhile, are erecting barriers between kids and mental and behavioral health services. When children lose access to ABA, they are at risk for losing skills they may never regain, jeopardizing their best chance to become independent adults.

State leaders must ensure that insurers don't arbitrarily limit coverage of ABA by creating improper guidelines, restricting beneficiaries to narrow provider networks or imposing improper administrative burdens on providers who should be focused on patients.

If insurers limit how many hours or days of ABA therapy are reimbursable, families will struggle to get the care their children need.

Many of those at risk of losing coverage for ABA routinely face inequity in our healthcare system. State leaders must ensure that the end of continuous Medicaid coverage does not also mark the end of robust access to effective mental health care for tens of thousands of kids with autism.


chief clinical officer, LEARN Behavioral


Want to see your opinion published in The Advocate | Times-Picayune? Submit a letter to the editor.