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Nixon touts progress on autism

ST. LOUIS — Gov. Jay Nixon praised the ground Missouri has gained on treating autism during his tenure as governor in an address to a conference at the Thompson Center on Autism Thursday.

Nixon said more families are receiving better treatments for children with autism thanks to changes in what treatments insurers must provide.

“When I first became Governor, awareness of autism and its impact was just entering the mainstream. Many families didn’t know where to turn for help. Here in Missouri, we set out to change that, and we did,” Nixon said. “Today, thousands of families throughout Missouri are able to afford applied behavioral analysis therapy for their children because of the law we passed in 2010. Together, we are building a future where all children have an opportunity to live up to their God-given potential.”

In 2010, Nixon signed HB 1311, which required insurance companies to cover applied behavioral analysis up to $40,000 a year. The costly therapy is also considered one of the most effective in treating autism.

Nixon touted this year’s state autism report, which found that thousands more Missouri children have benefitted from the treatment.

Nixon has also used the budget to address autism. The FY 2017 budget includes $5 million to expand the Thompson Center for Autism in Columbia and $500,000 to expand services at the Mercy Kids Autism Center in St. Louis and St. Charles Counties. In June, Nixon announced $5.5 million in state funding for a new Inter-Professional Autism Clinic in Kirksville, which would provide comprehensive autism services in northeast Missouri.