At 5:52PM on Thursday July 29th, ARICA was delivered to Governor Patrick’s Office for signature. (That’s 54 hours and 8 minutes before the end of the legislative session – for those of you who were counting!)
We have so much to be proud of and grateful for. Our bill is one of the most comprehensive of its kind; individuals with autism will have coverage for medically necessary treatment with no age caps or dollar limits. ARICA covers people with autism, because they are people with autism, whether they are 2 or 82. And the amount of treatment, just like chemotherapy/radiation for cancer patients, is based on medical necessity, not an arbitrary dollar cap.
I believe another thing we should all be proud of is the collaboration and teamwork that got us to this point. We are a diverse group; we had many different viewpoints and priorities. But we worked together in a coordinated and consistent way which enabled us to effectively get our message across and our mission accomplished. This was not an easy piece of legislation and not an ideal environment to try to get ARICA passed. And we were advised by many that it would likely take multiple legislative sessions to pass.
But with the strong leadership of Rep. L’Italien and Senator Berry, and the phenomenal advocacy of our community, it passed the first time it was filed. It passed the House and Senate unanimously, and it sits on the desk of a Governor who has publicly stated his support.
As Judith Ursitti noted, “patience is a virtue, persistence gets the job done.” This process took patience, to the finish line, for the twenty eight states that have yet to pass legislation, we are the model going forward!
We hope to have details about a signing ceremony soon – stay posted
I proudly serve on the Executive Committee of AFAM, both as a representative and Board member of the Asperger’s Association of New England (AANE), and in my capacity as a self-advocate for autism.
Here is a thank-you note I sent to the AFAM Insurance Committee when I read of the news. Along the way, I have spoken with some of the Governor’s staff on behalf of the legislation, and found them to be very supportive and helpful. Needless to say, this could not have happened without the energetic advocacy of Representative L’Italien and her staff on the House side, and Senator Berry in that chamber. We in the autism community owe them a large dose of gratitude. The “Amy” that I mention in my note is Amy Weinstock, Chair of the AFAM Insurance Committee.
Like some others who have said the same, I have tears in my eyes as I write this. I didn’t expect to get so emotional over what is, on the surface, a straightforward piece of legislation.
Thank you for being our leader, as we all worked together, to the best of our ability, to bring this day to pass. It was a group effort, a team effort, a community effort. I have learned, in my political activism, and am now learning, in my autism self-advocacy, that this is how things get done in this world.
This bill will forever change the lives of many people I know, and many more people whom I don’t know. Autistic people, to be sure, and also their families, friends, and support networks.
You mention that Governor Patrick has voiced support for ARICA. Our Governor, as we all know, is a great friend to the disability community. He has worked for the civil rights of disadvantaged people throughout his career. From his days as an attorney for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, to his stewardship of the ADA as head of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, right through to this day, Deval has done all in his power to protect the rights of those with different needs and challenges.
And, make no mistake about it, this is a civil rights issue. We are not asking for pity; we are asking for opportunity, for equal access. As the expression goes, we are not asking for a handout, but for a hand up. We want to be able to contribute to society to the fullest extent of which we are capable.
I don’t know if there is a space in the State House large enough to hold the bill-signing ceremony. There will be so very many smiling faces that day!
Again, Amy, thank you; and a big thank-you to everyone who had a hand in making this day a reality. It is truly a watershed event for our community.
This is, indeed, a day of which all of us in Massachusetts can be very proud!