California Healthline Daily Edition

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Hearing Examines Unequal State Spending on Autism Services

During a hearing Monday, state lawmakers and children's health advocates criticized the California Department of Developmental Services for ethnic and racial disparities in autism spending, the Los Angeles Times reports.


Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) called for the hearing in response to a series of articles that ran in the Times in December 2011 that examined state services for children with autism.

The articles reported that parents with more time and resources were able to obtain more services for their children, causing significant racial and socioeconomic disparities in autism treatment.

According to the Times, it is common for autistic children from high-income families to receive 25 hours of one-on-one behavioral therapy per week. However, advocates for low-income families said parents are not always told what public programs are available to treat their children's autism.

According to the series, average spending by CDDS for autistic children ages 3 to 6 was:

  • $11,723 per white child;
  • $11,063 per Asian child;
  • $7,634 per Latino child; and
  • $6,593 per black child.

Details of Hearing

At the hearing, Martha Matthews -- an attorney for the advocacy group Public Counsel -- said, "Families that are already the most disadvantaged get the least." She added, "This is exactly the opposite of what it should be."

Steinberg called for legislation that would strengthen accountability of the state's entitlement program for residents with developmental disabilities.

Discussion of Autism Service Providers

Officials from not-for-profit regional centers that receive funding from the state to provide services to children with autism said California's budget crisis has worsened inequities that already existed.

Terri Delgadillo -- director of CDDS -- testified that regional center budgets eventually will be set so that similar funding levels will be available for all residents with similar needs (Zarembo, Los Angeles Times, 5/1).

This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.