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      State seeks smarter services for autism and Asperger's

      Lt. Gov. Brian Calley has been a strong advocate for families that are dealing with autism.

      State health officials are aiming to better connect Michigan residents who need treatment for autism spectrum disorders with available services.

      The Department of Community Health released the Michigan Autism Spectrum Disorders State Plan today.

      Autism spectrum disorders are developmental brain disorders including autism and Asperger's.

      The Michigan Department of Community Health says there are 16,000 students in Michigan public school systems and 50,000 people in the state living with autism spectrum disorders.

      The key focus areas identified in the Michigan ASD State Plan are:

      -Infrastructure: system, service and resource coordination

      -Family engagement and involvement

      -Early identification and intervention services

      -Education supports and services

      -Adult supports and services

      -Physical, mental and behavioral health care

      -Training and professional development

      "It is our hope and belief that this plan will prompt many individuals and organizations to be actively engaged with us to address the significant needs of all individuals with ASD in Michigan," said Colleen Allen, Ph.D., chair of the Michigan Autism Council. "The development committee gave years of volunteer service researching the needs of Michigan families and creating a plan that will greatly improve our systems of care for individuals with ASD and their families."

      Last year, Lt. Gov. Brian Calley signed legislation requiring insurance companies to provide coverage for children's autism treatment. Insurers are reimbursed through a $15 million autism coverage incentive fund.

      "Today marks another significant day for Michigan and our efforts to help families and individuals with autism," said Lt. Gov.Calley, who has been a strong advocate of families dealing with autism. "It was an honor to sign the autism insurance legislation last year and I'm glad to see that our efforts have not stopped there. We have a great opportunity in front of us with this plan. I'm eager to see the profress Michigan will continue to make."

      Health department spokeswoman Angela Minicuci says mandating insurance coverage is only one step. She says the focus is now on ensuring that treatment is available and accessible.

      For more information about the state's efforts to address autism, and to see a copy of the ASD state plan, click here.