HARRISBURG, Pa., May 16, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A 2008 law will soon require staff serving children with autism spectrum disorders to hold a Behavior Specialist license in order to continue billing the Medical Assistance program for services.
To help service providers meet this requirement, the Pennsylvania Departments of Public Welfare (DPW) and State (DOS) have announced a plan to help ease the transition.
Act 62 of 2008 and subsequent regulations in 2012 established the need for a Behavior Specialist License; the intent was to ensure children with autism have access to qualified and trained staff.
Providers must now hold specific advanced degrees and will have to complete certain courses of study, including autism-specific training, as well as demonstrate experience involving behavior assessments and challenges.
Medical Assistance payments for services to children with autism spectrum disorders are administered by the Department of Public Welfare. The Department of State evaluates applications for the Behavior Specialist License and issues licenses.
"To ensure these vital services for children with autism continue without interruption, our two departments have devised a plan to continue paying service providers while they work to meet the licensing requirements," Acting Public Welfare Secretary Bev Mackereth said.
Both DOS and DPW have acknowledged the need to provide individuals additional time to work through the licensing process.
As a result, through an agreement with Behavioral Health Managed Care Organizations (BH-MCOs), DPW will continue Medical Assistance payments to professionals providing autism services to children while these providers finalize education, training and work to meet other requirements related to obtaining the license.
Individuals who currently meet the qualifications need to submit an application for a license by May 26, 2013. Providers with staff still working toward meeting the qualifications must demonstrate to the BH-MCO that any other staff subject to the law can achieve the necessary training and educational requirements by January 1, 2014. The BH-MCOs are already working with providers to analyze where individuals are in the licensure process with the goal of helping them work toward meeting the requirements.
Additionally, DPW continues to add and has already conducted trainings for providers, including technical assistance webinars.
"We have worked with the Department of Public Welfare to streamline the application and provide more training to assist staff in evaluating and processing applications more quickly," Secretary of State Carol Aichele said.
"The state has worked diligently to develop a reasonable plan to move toward the goal of having all behavioral specialists serving children with autism spectrum disorders licensed through the Board of Medicine," Deb Wasilchak, chief government contracts officer, Community Care Behavioral Health Organization, said. "They've worked in partnership with stakeholders to design a plan that addresses concerns from providers, families and payers, and prevents any unnecessary disruption in services to families."
"We agree that licensing Behavior Specialists is an important step toward improving services for young people with autism in Pennsylvania," Jim Bouder, chief operating officer of The Vista Foundation, said. "If a modest extension of time will help prevent service interruptions for some families, we fully support it."
Behavior specialist license applications are available at www.dos.state.pa.us. Select "Licensing"; "Health-Related Boards"; then "State Board of Medicine".
Carey Miller, DPW, 717-425-7606
Ron Ruman, DOS, 717-783-1621
SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare; Pennsylvania Department of State