On July 3, we celebrate the 10-year anniversary of Michigan becoming a leading state in bridging systems and providing services to individuals with autism.
Before 2012, families with children or adults with autism in Michigan were essentially left to their own devices to navigate a myriad of local, community and state services – including health, education and employment – where services existed.
That changed 10 years ago when two landmark legislative bills became law: the Michigan Autism Council (MAC) was created and autism services for children became a covered health insurance benefit.
The MAC’s first charge was to create and implement the newly established Michigan ASD State Plan. This meant creating a first-ever statewide infrastructure that would be responsible for providing comprehensive, lifespan supports to individuals with ASD and their families.
State leaders and experts in autism services conceived of the MAC as a central statewide entity that would benefit from interagency collaboration. The 16-member council today is comprised of individuals representing state departments (including Health and Human Services, Education, Insurance and Regulatory), child welfare, children’s services and MI rehabilitation advocates; health plans, community mental health service programs, school systems, non-profits, state universities and individuals and families who have ASD.
Working together with organizations like Autism Alliance of Michigan (AAoM), the MAC began the work of bridging a myriad of autism services, where they existed, and mapping areas around the state where services were insufficient or didn’t exist at all, the goal being to bridge that divide and provide individuals with ASD, their families and caregivers access to information and resources, coordination of services, and implementation of evidence-based practices, from early childhood education to employment connections and independent living.
I was proud to be part of MAC when it began and am equally proud that AAoM remains a close collaborative member organization today. Our work is far from over. Our True North remains ensure that people with autism will lead lives that meet their greatest potential.
Colleen Allen was the first Chair of the Michigan Autism Council. She is the president and CEO of Autism Alliance of Michigan.