Update on “Autistic Advocates & Allies! Can You Spare a Dime? (10 minutes)”

Update: SUCCESS!

The February 1 deadline has passed for seeking co-sponsors. At last count, the two bills had received the following number of petitioners in each chamber (percentage of all legislators is indicated in parens). The next step for us will be to prepare for hearings. Bill numbers will be assigned and the bills will be referred to the appropriate Committees. We are eager to continue to advocate for these measures.

  1. DDS eligibility (see the description below): House Docket 2945, Senate Docket 777. House 67 (42%), Senate 20 (50%), Total 87 (44%)
  2. DMH provision of services: House Docket 1658, Senate Docket 781. House 62 (39%), Senate 19 (48%), Total 81 (41%)

Needless to say, this is a strong showing. Many thanks to all who helped us bring these proposals to the attention of legislators.

Seeking Cosponsors for Two Autism Commission Recommendations

The Asperger’s Association of New England (AANE) has taken the lead in drafting and promoting two bills to implement the highest priority recommendations of the Massachusetts Special Commission Relative to Autism.

In a nutshell, these bills will

  1. Expand eligibility for services provided by the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) to include persons with developmental disabilities who have measurable functional limitations in several areas of essential life skills. Currently, DDS primarily serves those with an intellectual disability. This change will provide (subject to appropriation) much-needed assistance to autistic adults and others who are not now served.
  2. Require the Department of Mental Health (DMH) to provide their services to people with an autism diagnosis if they would otherwise qualify for and need DMH services. Currently, anyone with an autism diagnosis is automatically excluded from receiving DMH services, regardless of their need.

The rest of this post is an email that was sent out this week by Lucy Berrington, Chair of AANE’s Advocacy Committee, asking AANE members to help find cosponsors for these bills before the February 1 deadline.

If you are interested in autism or disability rights, we request your assistance, whether or not you are an AANE member.

Obviously, you will need to modify the sample letter if you are not an AANE member. Also, feel free (of course) to send an email or call legislators you know or have a connection to, even if you are not a constituent.

For those who are interested in more detail (or who want to share same with a legislator), the bills and fact sheets are all available here as pdf files. We have the DDS bill as it was introduced, a Fact Sheet on that DDS bill, and an annotated version that shows how the relevant statutes would be modified. Also, the DMH bill and its associated Fact Sheet.

Thank you so much for considering this request!




Asperger’s Association of New England

To the entire AANE community in Massachusetts:

We need YOU to contact your state representative and senator ASAP! We have an exciting, unprecedented opportunity to pass legislation that would ensure services from DDS and DMH to our folks who have long been denied them. Please be sure to join this effort and support the two bills we’ve prepared.

The immediate need, prior to February 1, 2013 is to have as many legislators as possible co-sponsor our two bills. All the info is provided below. Your representative and senator need to hear from YOU before the end of this month (January 2013). Please do it now! Any questions, or for fact sheets on these bills, please email Lucy Berrington, chair of our Advocacy Committee: lucyberrington {at} rcn(.)com.)


(1) If you are not sure who represents you in the Massachusetts State House and Senate, look up your address at www.wheredoivotema.com. Then scroll down the results to Current Elected Officials, including State Senate and State Representative. Click on their names to get their phone and email info.

(2) Send emails or make phone calls to BOTH your state senator and state representative requesting that they co-sponsor our two bills. Use the sample letter below for guidance, and personalize it with your story if you want to. Be sure to include the bill docket numbers, and your address.

If your representative is either Kay Khan or Garrett Bradley, or your senator is Jennifer Flanagan, they are the lead sponsors on these bills, so you don’t need to request their co-sponsorship. Instead, please thank them for their support.

(3) Important: please cc adcom {at} aane(.)org on all emails so the Advocacy Committee can track contacts and fill any gaps. If you make phone calls instead, it would help us to get an email from you saying you did so (adcom {at} aane(.)org).

(4) Please forward this request to your friends, networks and allies and ask them to join our effort.


Sample Letter


Dear Representative/Senator [name],


I’m your constituent and a member of the Asperger’s Association of New England (AANE), based in Watertown. [Add other relevant personal info, e.g., role in autism advocacy, mental health professional, etc.] I hope you will co-sponsor two bills that are very important to me. These bills address the two highest priorities of the MA Autism Commission and have been prepared by AANE.


These bills are supported by a large statewide constituency. AANE has over 20,000 active members, the overwhelming majority in Massachusetts. The bills are endorsed by the Cross Disability Advocacy Coalition (CDAC) and we expect these bills will receive the support of many individual statewide autism and disability organizations.  


Bill HD01658 (also SD00781) would ensure full and equal access to services from the Department of Mental Health for individuals with autism spectrum disorders and related conditions who meet the eligibility criteria for DMH services. It has been filed by Representative Kay Khan, House Chair of the Joint Committee for Children, Families and Disabilities, and Senator Jennifer Flanagan, member of the Autism Commission. People with autism and co-occurring mental health conditions are currently denied vital services.


Bill HD02945 (also SD00777) would permit the Department of Developmental Services to provide services to adults with developmental disabilities. It has been filed by Representative Garrett Bradley and Senator Jennifer Flanagan, members of the Autism Commission. AANE worked with attorneys at the Disability Law Center to draft this bill. It would expand DDS eligibility (subject to appropriation) to people with developmental disabilities who meet certain conditions for “substantial functional limitations”. The wording is taken from the relevant federal statute, known as the DD Act. More than 40 states provide eligibility for adult services using a definition of developmental disability. (A recent law revised the intellectual disability requirement but did not address the needs of people whose functional challenges are related to a developmental disability.)      


If you have already co-sponsored these bills, thank you. You are supporting people who are currently denied essential treatment and services from both DDS and DMH.     




Phone and/or email

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  1. […] We had a hand in crafting two bills alluded to at the beginning of this post (and which I described in some detail in an earlier post): […]

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