A bill signing ceremony at the Capitol became emotional as families of autistic children celebrated a late-legislative session victory.
Gov. Dave Heineman has signed into law LB 254, which requires health insurance policies to cover autism therapy.
Colleen Jankovich of Omaha, the mother of an autistic son, stated she’s pleased the bill won approval in the last days of the legislative session.
“I was not sure it was going to pass with all the stuff that went on,” Jankovich said, growing emotional as she addressed the signing ceremony. “But I’m so grateful to everyone for everything they’ve done, because it means there’s a future in our state for our children and that’s all that matters.”
Vicki Depenbusch of Lincoln says therapy has been a great help to her autistic son, Jacob.
“When a small child has a truck and they roll it; that’s not what our son would do. He’d flip it over and just spin the wheels; line up things. So, he had to be taught how to play.”
Depenbusch says the public schools have been instrumental in helping autistic children become more acclimated socially.
Jacob met Gov. Heineman during his parent teacher conference in 2010. They have developed a friendship and Jacob calls himself the “Governor’s Buddy.” Jacob attended the signing ceremony with his mother and stood next to Heineman.
The law mandates insurance policies provide 25 hours of therapy per week, such as applied behavior analysis. Some policies are exempt due to federal law.
Sen. Colby Coash of Lincoln sponsored LB 254 and acknowledged during the news conference he nearly gave up on the bill during the legislative session.
“This therapy opens doors and what it does for children is it allows them to interact with the world in a way that they wouldn’t have but for this therapy,” according to Coash.
Autism therapy can cost an average of $50,000 a year, according to the advocacy group Autism Speaks.
AUDIO: Gov. Dave Heineman holds news conference to sign LB 254. [12 min.]