At 10:50 a.m. March 26, 2012, U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard ordered the State of Florida to immediately begin providing coverage of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) for children on Florida Medicaid diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. In issuing an initial oral order from the bench late Friday afternoon, Judge Lenard referred to this as “one of the most important cases I have ever heard.” The case was brought on behalf of three autistic Miami children, clients of Monica Vigues-Pitan, Advocacy Director of Legal Services of Greater Miami (LSGMI). According to lead counsel Miriam Harmatz of Florida Legal Services (FLS), “This case will have national impact because, while most states mandate that private insurance companies must cover ABA, most state Medicaid programs do not provide coverage.” The children’s treating physicians explained the extreme disparity between the prognosis of privately insured children with autism, who receive ABA, and those on Medicaid, who do not. Ms. Harmatz, who is one of the state’s leading Medicaid advocates, explained that “Judge Lenard’s order will eliminate this tragic disparity.”

Click here for the full statement from Florida Legal Services

Click here for the case order

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Alexia Nechayev

FYS Events & Meeting Chair
(Palm Beach)

Hello, My name is Alexia Nechayev. I am 25 years old and I am an alumna of Florida International University where I received my B.A. in Psychology. My future career goal is to be a Lawyer. I was in care for about one year from age 17 to 18. Prior to entering care, I only knew about the negative stigma regarding foster care and while in care that narrative was unfortunately my experience.

In school I felt like I was on display because my status in care was broadcast to other students and in my placement behavior was leveraged for “privileges” that should be a natural right of all children. Because I did not know my rights I did not know that what I was experiencing was wrong. Today this is exactly why I advocate, because I don’t want this to be the same for other youth who are experiencing foster care.

This is my second year on the FYS Statewide Board and I’m happy to be the Events and Meetings Chair this year because my main goal through advocacy is to reach as many people as possible. My favorite thing as a board member is to see how comfortable members become while working together. The community needs to know that youth in foster care are real people, going through some of the hardest moments of their life and youth need to know that their voice is powerful. I believe that we have to speak up and bring these issues to people’s attention so that they do not forget us. Advocacy, education and consistency is the only way.

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