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Report: Lack of autism specialists creating long wait times for children

A new report says Michigan lacks enough autism specialists to handle the number of children being diagnosed and treated with the disorder.

The Center for Healthcare Research and Transformation (CHRT) says that means long wait times before many children and their families can get help.

“We actually talked to all of the treatment programs to get a sense of the average waiting time for appointments, and it was anywhere from a month to, in some cases, two years, depending on the particular program,” said CHRT Director Marianne Udow-Phillips.

State laws passed in 2012 require state-regulated insurance companies to cover autism diagnosis and treatments for children up to age 18. The report says that has led to more specialists working in Michigan, but it has also sometimes resulted in heavier caseloads.

The legislation also included a temporary fund to help train new autism specialists. Udow-Phillips hopes lawmakers will extend the lifespan of that fund once it is depleted.

She says more needs to be done to let people know about those state-funded programs to help boost the number of autism specialists in Michigan.