Public Policy and Practice

Nov. 2010 - An update posted by the CalABA Public Policy Committee, also published in the Fall 2010 issue of CalABA's newsletter Focal Point.

2010 has been an eventful year for the intersection of public policy and behavior analysis in California. The coming year—with the election of a new governor and uncertainty about how ongoing budgetary problems will be addressed - is likely to prove even more crucial. Here are some 2010 snapshots and highlights as well as some focus areas for the coming year. All behavior analysts in California are urged to join CalABA, become BACB certified, be informed about public policy issues, and support the efforts of CalABA's PPC. Your professional viability, and that of our field, hinges upon the extent to which we are ALL informed, involved, and unified.

SB1282, which was intended to recognize behavior analysts in California's Business and Professions Code, ultimately died due to lack of support. Although the bill was initially straightforward, there was disagreement among the stakeholders as to how competency in applied behavior analysis should be defined. Ultimately, CalABA had to withdraw its support of the bill because of potential risks to consumers of behavior analytic treatment. The issues of how to define the field of ABA and also how to recognize competent ABA practitioners are important ones for consumers and professionals. Both will continue to be a primary focus for CalABA during the coming year. Stay tuned.

There are now 23 states with laws mandating insurance coverage of treatment for individuals with autism spectrum disorders. In many cases the terms "applied behavior analysis" and "Board Certified Behavior Analyst" are explicitly recognized in law or the regulations that implement them. California is not one of these 23 states. However, there is evidence that more California companies are beginning to position themselves so as to influence how ABA Tx will be covered in our state. Practitioners in California need to begin to learn more about coverage and how to operate in an insurance environment. More information on this topic will be offered at the 2011 CalABA conference in Burlingame.

Related to the topic of insurance coverage is the Consumer Watchdog suit filed in 2009 against the California Department of Managed Health Care. (http://articles.latimes.com/2009/oct/27/business/fi-autism27) The lawsuit is of interest to CalABA members because it seeks to invalidate an argument that insurance companies have used to deny ABA coverage to individuals with autism: that professionals must be licensed in order to receive insurance reimbursement for their services. Obviously, this goes to the issue of BACB certification. Reportedly, the next stage of the lawsuit will take place before the end of this year.

Budget problems in California have resulted in a trailer bill that implements an additional 1.25% decrease in reimbursement rates for regional center vendors retroactive to July of this year. (A trailer bill is one that "trails" or implements the budget.) Thus a total 4.25% reduction in reimbursement rates will remain in effect until at least June 30, 2011 as the 3% reduction from last year was continued. CalABA, at the organizational and individual practitioner levels, will need to partner with stakeholders to work towards restoring these budget reductions so as to ensure that quality ABA services are available to all Californians with developmental disabilities. School services have also been similarly impacted with reductions in rates paid to NPAs and NPSs in effect in some areas and a corresponding reduction in behavior analytic services to school age children.

As you may know, California, is one of several states where ABAI's Practice Board has interfered with State Association legislative activities. At the Alamo Town Hall Meeting in May 2010, then-President Ray Miltenberger, pledged, on behalf of the ABAI Executive Council, to stop this practice. (http://calaba.org/alamo.shtm) At the meeting, members from 27 different State Associations and Special Interest Groups expressed frustration about multiple issues, including the failure of ABAI to more fully support BACB activities. Similar concerns were expressed in the ABAI Autism SIG newsletter published just prior to the 2010 ABAI Conference. (http://www.autismpppsig.org) Little has been heard on this point except for encouraging commentary provided by ABAI's President Pat Friman in his recent column in Inside Behavior Analysis. (http://www.abainternational.org/aba/newsletter/IBAvol2iss2/index.asp) CalABA certainly hopes that ABAI and State Associations will be able to work together more effectively in the future and that ABAI will whole heartedly endorse BACB certification. Regardless, CalABA will be partnering with other State Associations to share resources. Many of the political and legislative issues the field confronts must be addressed on a state-by-state basis. However, we also recognize that partnering with other State Associations, who are confronting similar problems, is also likely to be helpful.

The CalABA PPC has grown in size and changed in composition this past year. Sharing responsibility with me for CalABA's public policy efforts are the following members of the CalABA Board of Directors: Kristi Miller, Ph.D., BCBA (FACES for Kids, Redwood City), Junelyn F. Lazo-Pearson, Ph.D.,BCBA-D (Center for Behavioral Sciences, Inc., Costa Mesa), and Danny Shabani, Ph.D, BCBA-D (Cal State Los Angeles). In addition, David Pyles, Ph.D., (The Chicago School – Los Angeles) has also been appointed as a non-Board member to the PPC. Dave has extensive experience working for the State of Illinois writing regulations governing the practice of behavior analysis with individuals with developmental disabilities. Prior to moving to California, Dave also served as the Treasurer for the Behavior Analysis Society of Illinois (BASIL). We look forward to taking advantage of Dave's talents and expertise. In addition, if you have some special talents or abilities that might benefit CalABA's PPC efforts, please let one of us know.

There will be several presentations addressing public policy issues at the 2011 CalABA Conference. Jerry Shook, Ph.D., BCBA-D, Executive Director of the BACB will be giving an update on certification and licensure for behavior analysts. Lorri Unumb, Senior Policy Advisor & Counsel, Autism Speaks, will give an invited address and conduct a workshop on public policy, legislative efforts, and insurance coverage. In addition, CalABA's legislative agenda for 2011 will be presented as part of a panel where guidelines for grassroots organizing and other issues important to the field of behavior analysis will also be covered. Opportunities for asking questions and offering commentary to members of the PPC will be available. Other events are still being formulated and will be advertised as they are finalized.

How can you help CalABA's PPC efforts?

  • Recruit more behavior analysts to become CalABA members and attend the 2011 conference.
  • Encourage your colleagues and allied organizations to be sponsors of the 2011 CalABA Conference.
  • Encourage behavior analysts to become BACB certified.
  • Become knowledgeable about how public policy is made and formed; take advantage of some of the training that will be offered at the 2011 Conference.
  • Begin to network in your own community so as to promote improved understanding about the field of behavior analysis and BACB certification.