State Unveils New Autism Plan

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The CDC calls autism an urgent public health concern and Michigan is taking action.

The state unveiled a broad new plan Monday to help people cope with the disorder.

A governor-appointed board has been working on the sweeping plan for two years. Families dealing with autism say it could make simple dreams, possible.

"I want her to have a support network that surrounds her, I want her to have a house, I want her to have friends, I want her to have a job," Pat Miller said of her 16-year-old daughter Katie, who has autism.

Miller says the services Katie needs aren't always available in Michigan, but change is coming.

"There are opportunities and a group of people committed to making this happen and I'm just ecstatic," Miller added.

Building on changes in state law that mandate insurance coverage for autism, Michigan is laying out a road map for improving services.

The plan looks at where the state is and where it should be, considering everything from education to employment.

"The plan itself has a lot of recommendations, it will take years to go through them all, so we have to prioritize," Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley said.

For Calley, the struggle is personal, he also has a daughter with autism.

He says step one is building a network of service providers, particularly in areas of early screening and intervention. Another priority is transitional services and employment for adults with autism. According to Calley, around 90 percent of autistic adults are unemployed.

"It doesn't have to be that high," he said. "There are so many jobs that a person with autism is well-suited for and so we need to be committed to connecting our people with our employees."

The plan also calls for a state autism resource center. It will give information and help connect families to the professionals they need.

For the Miller family, it means a brighter future.

"I used to worry what's going to happen when I'm gone, what am I going to do, what is she going to do," Miller said.

More than 50 people worked on the new autism plan. They say having it will allow Michigan to apply for federal research funding and that money can boost programing.

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