DSU Psychology Lab Partners with Nonprofit to Facilitate Utah Autism Mandate Summit

DSU Psychology Lab Partners with Nonprofit to Facilitate Utah Autism Mandate Summit

Monday, September 21st, 2015

A summit geared toward apprising Utahans about a new law that will affect people diagnosed with autism will be broadcast on the Dixie State University campus in an effort to keep more southern Utah families informed.

The Autism Mandate Summit is being held in Lehi to teach Utahans about a law that will go into effect Jan. 1, 2016, and mandate health insurance coverage for people with autism. To make the summit more accessible to southern Utah residents, Dannelle Larsen-Rife, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at Dixie State University, has partnered with the summit to facilitate a simultaneous broadcast and resource fair in the Zion Room on the fifth floor of the Holland Centennial Commons. The summit and live broadcast are scheduled to take place from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Sept. 28.

“This summit is especially important because Utah has consistently had one of the highest rates of autism diagnosis in the country, with approximately 1 in 54 Utah children receiving a diagnosis,” Dr. Larsen-Rife said. “Participants will learn how to access and navigate the health care system to meet their children’s mental and physical healthcare needs.”

Learning this navigation is important because ultimately coordinated efforts between families and the medical community can facilitate optimal care for southern Utah’s children and their loved ones.

“The goals for the summit and resource fair are to provide information about the new law, help parents who raise children with autism access resources, develop relationships between local service providers, and answer questions about the Early Experience Study,” Dr. Larsen-Rife said.

Dr. Larsen-Rife and her students are conducting the Early Experience Study, designed to understand aspects of pregnancy, labor, delivery, and child development in families with typically and atypically developing children, including children diagnosed with autism in Washington County.

“Students in the psychology research lab will have the opportunity to learn about standards of care for autism, and learn about families’ experiences accessing the healthcare system at the summit,” Dr. Larsen-Rife said.

Parents who raise a child diagnosed with autism devote huge amounts of time, resources, and energy to helping their children. Resources are expensive and insurance coverage varies drastically from state to state and from plan to plan.

“I have seen families sell their homes, take second jobs, or move out of state to be able to provide medically necessary services for their child,” Natalie Whatcott, Co-CEO of Utah Behavior Services, said. “As providers, we can sometimes donate services in extreme cases, but the real solution is to fund them the same way every other medically necessary service is – through health insurance.”

UTBS Heart, an affiliate of Utah Behavior Services, is a newly formed nonprofit organization that supports families struggling to connect to local autism services. To learn more, visit www.utbsheart.org or call 385-355-0655.

The Autism Mandate Summit is sponsored by UTBS Heart, the Utah Autism Coalition, Autism Speaks, Affinity Autism Services, Adobe and others. Registration is needed to reserve a seat. For more information and to register, visit www.AutismMandateSummit.org.