Jackson, Miss.—Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann earned a top award today from Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism advocacy and research organization, for his efforts to increase autism awareness and insurance coverage for autism in Mississippi.
Secretary Hosemann and his wife, Lynn, who has advocated for causes relating to children diagnosed with autism, attended the organization’s annual legal conference to accept the 2018 Executive Champion Award.
“This award recognizes significant public service on the part of an executive official in government,” said Lorri Unumb, Vice President of State Government Affairs for Autism Speaks. “Secretary Hosemann’s admirable commitment to this cause has been apparent since I met him a couple of years ago. We are thankful for his efforts in Mississippi.”
Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, may embody many different conditions including challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, and speech and nonverbal communication, and is characterized by unique strengths and differences.
Past recipients of the Executive Champion Award include Ohio Governor John Kasich, Michigan Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley, Georgia Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle, and California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones.
“Our children are our most valuable asset, and the early years are the most critical. We have to make sure all children and their parents have access to treatment and diagnostic services as soon as possible to give them the best chance for a fulfilling life,” Secretary Hosemann said. “We could not have gotten this far without strong partnerships with our legislators, including Representative Steve Massengill and Senator Rita Parks, and I thank them for their commitment and share this award with them.”
Secretary Hosemann, in partnership with the Mississippi Legislature, has led the charge for a broad range of developments in autism awareness and insurance coverage including:
- In 2015, Secretary Hosemann proposed and the Mississippi Legislature—led by Senator Parks (R-Corinth) and Representative Massengill (R-Hickory Flat)—enacted House Bill 885, which required private insurers to cover treatment for autism and other developmental disorders, including Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA therapy), to age 8. The bill also created the Mississippi Autism Board, which was housed at the Secretary of State’s Office and licenses professionals to practice ABA therapy in the State.
- In early 2017, Secretary Hosemann, the Mississippi Autism Board, and other clinics and relevant agencies partnered with Autism Speaks to hold its first major coordinated awareness event, an ABA Therapy/Autism Capitol Day. This is now an annual event in Mississippi.
- In spring/summer 2017, Secretary Hosemann addressed the need for more registered behavior technicians and other ABA therapy professionals with the Mississippi Community College Board. The Secretary of State’s Office worked with Holmes Community College and the University of Southern Mississippi to create an online RBT course for parents, teachers, and students in the state. This ground-breaking class is the first of its kind in the United States. The first course was held in March 2018, and Holmes Community College plans to offer the class in fall 2018 and in 2019.
- In early 2018, Secretary Hosemann partnered with Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney to negotiate an agreement with the State’s three largest private insurers to lift the age cap at no additional cost for parents for coverage for treatment of autism and other development disorders. The agreement covered 90 percent of all individuals on the spectrum; other insurers did not have an age cap.
For more information about Autism Speaks, visit www.AutismSpeaks.org.