CHICAGO – Building on his commitment to supporting education and research for autism, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced a $1 million grant to Easter Seals Metropolitan Chicago to construct the nation’s first-ever, state-of-the-art Therapeutic School and Center for Autism Research. The new facility, which broke ground today, will benefit Chicago-area children living with autism. It will also be the first facility that integrates education, cutting-edge research and independent living in a single campus building. Barry Maram, Director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, attended the event on behalf of Gov. Blagojevich.
“Autism is one of the fastest growing developmental disorders diagnosed in children across the country. And while we don’t know what causes autism, research shows that the earlier a child is diagnosed and can get specialized help, the more success they’ll have coping with the disorder. In our community, Easter Seals of Metropolitan Chicago is playing a critical role in supporting autistic children and their families. Today’s groundbreaking is another milestone in their efforts, and will make a major difference in the lives of autistic children and adults all over the Chicagoland area,” Gov. Blagojevich said.
The new, one-of-a-kind 87,000 square-foot Therapeutic School and Center for Autism Research will incorporate a therapeutic school, specially designed research capabilities and administrative offices, as well as independent living facilities. Interior plans and special acoustic and lighting features for therapy and gross motor skills rooms will help reduce distractions and promote more effective learning. The new school will also offer clinical affiliations with the University of Illinois at Chicago and Rush Medical Center, vocational training and job placement training.
“This facility will be the only one of its kind to combine on a single campus educational, research, training, early intervention, school-to-work transition and independent-living capabilities,” said F. Timothy Muri, President and CEO, Easter Seals Metropolitan Chicago. “We are pleased to receive this funding from Gov. Blagojevich that will help us make this dream happen.”
“This new state-of-the art facility provides hope for thousands of Illinoisans who watch their loved ones battle autism every day,” said Barry Maram, Director of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services. “Through the All Kids healthcare program, we can make sure that every child who needs treatment in this facility can get it.”
In June 2006, Gov. Blagojevich signed a new law designed to help autistic children get access to new treatments. House Bill 4125 mandates that private and government insurance plans pay for an additional 20 speech therapy sessions every year for developmentally disabled children. The measure, sponsored by state Representaive Mary Flowers (D-Chicago) and state Senator Susan Garrett (D-Highwood), provides financial support and assistance for families raising autistic children.
The law requires all state and local insurance plans, as well as private insurance plans offered by many employers, to pay for the treatment of pervasive developmental disorders and requires group health benefit plans to provide coverage for 20 additional outpatient visits for speech therapy. The law took effect immediately, and, as plans are renewed over the course of the next year, the additional coverage will be included in the new policies.
In addition to expanding insurance coverage of speech therapy for autistic and developmentally disabled children, Gov. Blagojevich has supported other programs designed to support parents and provide the best possible treatment for their children.
The Governor’s All Kids program will make healthcare a reality for thousands of children across the state – including autistic children – who are living without it now. All Kids will cover a wide range of services for children with autism, including psychiatric services, speech therapy, physical therapy, occupation therapy, medications, and medically necessary services rendered by eligible All Kids providers to eligible participants. Every child enrolled in All Kids will have coverage for doctor’s visits, hospital stays, prescription drugs, vision care, dental care and medical devices like eyeglasses and asthma inhalers.
The Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) has provided $2.5 million in funding to the Autism Program, which provides support for parents of autistic children and services for people with autism and developmental disabilities. The Autism Program is established at three sites in Illinois: Chicago, Springfield and Carbondale. Each site provides diagnostic, treatment and consulting services as part of a larger training venue.
Through a partnership of the Autism Program and the Illinois Autism Task Force, a comprehensive website has been developed with a vision to offer information and resources available on autism in Illinois. Its goal, with the support of IDHS, is to help create and enhance linkages between individuals and their families, teachers, physicians, providers and to help others seeking resources in Illinois related to autism and developmental disorders.