Effort Aims To Reduce Autism Service Gaps
By Denise Allabaugh WILKES-BARRE — Officials from the AllOne Foundation joined several representatives from health care, education and philanthropic entities on Thursday to announce a major regional autism services collaborative. The initiative is aimed at significantly enhancing the service delivery system and minimizing service gaps for people with autism spectrum disorder in Northeast and North Central Pennsylvania and their families. The Autism Collaborative Centers of Excellence was formed to deliver an array of services and support for people with autism spectrum disorder from early intervention to adult services. Attorney John P. Moses, board chairman at the AllOne Foundation, said the $7 million, multi-year commitment represents the largest private philanthropic investment in a single health issue in Northeast and North Central Pennsylvania. The Autism Collaborative Centers of Excellence represent “an opportunity for our region to develop a sustainable framework to address existing service gaps,” he said. “Working collaboratively, we seek to create a national model for scientifically-sound innovation at the cutting edge of autism spectrum disorder care,” Moses said. The Autism Collaborative Centers of Excellence includes regional leaders and autism experts from Geisinger Autism & Developmental Medicine Institute, Misericordia University, the University of Scranton, Friendship House, Children’s Service Center, Wyoming Valley Children’s Association, Allied Services, Goodwill Industries of NEPA, Hope Enterprises, Inc., Luzerne County ARC and NEPA Center for Independent Living. The collaborative is supported by AllOne Foundation, The Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, Margaret Briggs Foundation, Northeast Pennsylvania Health Care Foundation, Highmark Foundation, Geisinger Foundation and Moses Taylor Foundation. Moses said it is the largest collaborative between the AllOne Foundation, which formed upon the June 2015 merger of Blue Cross of Northeast Pennsylvania and Highmark, and other regional foundations. The Northeastern Pennsylvania Health Care Foundation was formed as a result of the sale of Mercy Hospital to Geisinger in 2011 and Moses said, “We wanted to make sure that we kept that money locally.” “We wanted to make sure that those resources, which we developed by collecting premiums and treating patients in local hospitals, stayed in Northeastern Pennsylvania,” Moses said. The Autism Collaborative Centers of Excellence will benefit preschool children through adults with autism in 13 counties in Northeastern and North Central Pennsylvania: Luzerne, Lackawanna, Bradford, Carbon, Clinton, Lycoming, Monroe, Pike, Sullivan Susquehanna, Tioga, Wyoming and Wayne Specific services will vary by age but will be available to families regardless of gender, race, or socioeconomic status, officials said. Based on combined county census data, more than 17,400 people in the region are estimated to be living with autism spectrum disorder. As a result of the high number of people in the region with autism spectrum disorder, John Cosgrove, executive director of the AllOne Foundation, said the investment will have a measurable impact. Cosgrove said it is aimed at “making life better, in fact, changing the world of the people we strive to serve with an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis.” Diagnosable genetic disorders are the most commonly known causes of autism. Developmental behavioral evaluation and genetic testing are recommended as part of the comprehensive diagnostic work-up of people with autism spectrum disorder. Because of long waiting lists for evaluation and a lack of adequately trained clinicians, many with autism spectrum disorder in Northeast and North Central Pennsylvania experience delayed or inaccurate diagnosis and relatively few undergo recommended medical and genetic testing. University of Scranton Dean Debra A. Pellegrino said the Autism Collaborative Centers of Excellence will address service gaps while creating a “national model for scientifically sound innovation” at the cutting edge of autism spectrum disorder care. For more information about the Autism Collaborative Centers of Excellence, call 570-208-1200 or go to AllOneforAutism.org. Contact the writer: firstname.lastname@example.org 570-821-2115, @CVAllabaugh According to the AllOne Foundation and the University of Scranton, the Autism Collaborative Centers of Excellence will: n Create autism spectrum disorder community hubs to assist people and families in identifying and navigating services throughout the region. n Establish a coordinated network of qualified autism spectrum disorder providers to facilitate regional access to evidence-based care. n Deliver an array of services and support for people with autism spectrum disorder from early intervention to adult services. n Provide a coordinated, comprehensive approach to the identification and treatment of autism spectrum disorder for children, adults, and families. n Promote evidence-based practices as the standard for autism spectrum disorder treatment in the region. n Enhance undergraduate and graduate training opportunities in autism spectrum disorder-related fields to create a highly skilled talent pool for the region. n Expand opportunities for respite care for families. n Ensure a consistent, seamless approach that allows for tracking service delivery transitions across multiple agencies. n Implement an ongoing process for data collection, analysis, and the reporting of outcomes and recommendations from the coordinated network of qualified providers to enhance the delivery of evidence-based care across Northeastern and North Central Pennsylvania for people with autism spectrum disorder and their families.