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Autism treatment bill clears first N.C. House committee

Autism treatment bill clears first N.C. House committee

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A bill to license behavioral analysts who provide treatment to children with autism cleared Tuesday its first step in the state House.

Bipartisan House Bill 91 now goes to the Finance committee.

There is a companion version in Republican-sponsored Senate Bill 103 that will get its first hearing at 10 a.m. Wednesday in the Health committee.

The bills have powerful primary sponsors in House majority leader John Bell IV, R-Johnston, and Senate Majority Whip Jim Perry, R-Lenoir. Rep. Donny Lambeth, R-Forsyth, is a co-primary sponsor of HB91.

The bills contain most of the same language in House Bill 671, which cleared the House by a 112-2 vote on May 28, 2019, but was never addressed in the Senate.

Under current state regulations, qualified behavioral analysts must operate under the supervision of licensed psychologists, according to a statement from bill sponsors.

Both bills would create a five-member state Behavioral Analysis Board that would be able to issue and revoke the licenses of applicants. Licenses would be valid for two years and subject to renewal.

Applicants would have to be at least age 18, pass a criminal history record check, pass the board's Certified Behavior Analyst examination, and have active status with the board. There would be a $250 application fee and a $200 renewal fee.

According to Autism Speaks, applied behavior analysis "is a therapy based on the science of learning and behavior."

"ABA therapy applies our understanding of how behavior works to real situations. The goal is to increase behaviors that are helpful, and decrease behaviors that are harmful or affect learning."

Bell and Perry said in a joint statement that North Carolina is the only state "where behavior analysts who provide highly effective treatment to children with autism are unable to practice independently."

The legislators said that as a result, there have been "fewer providers, long wait lists, higher costs and reduced access to treatment for children with autism, particularly in rural areas."

"Furthermore, North Carolina has had difficulty in recruiting and retaining behavior analysts to a state where they are unable to independently practice."

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