Through MAC’s tireless advocacy, alongside its partners, the Massachusetts legislature has passed the Autism Omnibus Bill and provisions of An Act Relative to Safe and Supportive Schools!

Update: On August 6, 2014, the Governor signed the Autism Omnibus Bill into law as Ch. 226 of the Acts of 2016. Provisions of An Act Relative to Safe and Supportive Schools were also signed into law.

Update: On August 13, 2014, the Governor signed the Safe and Supportive Schools provisions into law. Read more on MAC’s Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative website – http://traumasensitiveschools.org/safe-and-supportive-schools-becomes-law/

The Autism Omnibus Bill

The Autism Omnibus Bill is a landmark bill addressing unmet needs of people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), reflecting many of the priority recommendations of the Commonwealth’s Autism Commission and MAC’s Autism Center.

This bill reflects the state legislature’s commitment to address the needs of the growing numbers of people with ASD in the Commonwealth. MAC and other stakeholders dedicated an enormous amount of effort advocating for passage of the bill, and we are thrilled that on August 6, 2014, the Governor signed the Autism Omnibus Bill into law.

The bill includes the following key provisions:

  • A requirement that MassHealth cover medically necessary treatments for children with ASD who are under 21 years old – including ABA therapies as well as dedicated and non-dedicated AAC devices;
  • Extension of Department of Developmental Services (DDS) eligibility to many persons with Autism, Prader Willi Syndrome and Smith-Magenis syndrome;
  • The creation of an Autism Endorsement for special education teachers to enable them to voluntarily gain in-depth knowledge about the complexities of educating students with ASD;
  • The creation of tax-free saving accounts (called “Achieving a Better Life Experience” or ABLE) to help families cover anticipated disability-related expenses for individuals with ASD and other physical and developmental disabilities;
  • Requiring DMH and DDS to develop and implement a plan to provide services to individuals who have both a mental illness and a developmental disabilities; and
  • Establishing the Autism Commission as a permanent entity.

The bill passed the House and Senate unanimously. Special thanks to lead sponsors Rep. Bradley and Sen. Flanagan, House Speaker DeLeo, Senate President Murray, House Ways and Mean Chair Dempsey,  Senate Ways and Mean Chair Brewer, and the other legislators who provided essential support and leadership, and to Barbara L’Italien, of the ARC/AFAM.

To learn more, please see our fact sheet.

Read the Autism Omnibus Law.

Read more about the advocacy of MAC’s Autism Center.

An Act Relative to Safe and Supportive Schools

The legislature adopted provisions of An Act Relative to Safe and Supportive Schools as part of An Act Relative to the Reduction of Gun Violence. This language establishes a statewide  “safe and supportive schools framework” to assist schools to create safe and supportive learning environments “that improve educational outcomes for students.”

The language begins with a  groundbreaking definition of “safe and supportive schools” as

“… schools that foster a safe, positive, healthy and inclusive whole-school learning environment that (i) enables students to develop positive relationships with adults and peers, regulate their emotions and behavior, achieve academic and non-academic success in school and maintain physical and psychological health and well-being and (ii) integrates services and aligns initiatives that promote students’ behavioral health, including social and emotional learning, bullying prevention, trauma sensitivity, dropout prevention, truancy reduction, children’s mental health, foster care and homeless youth education, inclusion of students with disabilities, positive behavioral approaches that reduce suspensions and expulsions and other similar initiatives.”

In addition to the new definition, the law:

  • Requires DESE to develop a state-wide Safe and Supportive Schools Framework consistent with the Framework recommended by the Behavioral Health and Public Schools Task Force.
  • Enables and encourages all schools to develop action plans for implementing the Safe and Supportive Schools Framework; the action plans would be  incorporated  in the School Improvement Plans that are already required under MGL c. 69 § 1I;
  • Provides a self-assessment tool to help schools create their action plans and, subject to appropriation, provides technical assistance to schools and districts;
  • Establishes a Safe and Supportive Schools Grant Program to fund exemplar schools that serve as models for creating safe and supportive schools; and
  • Establishes a commission to assist with statewide implementation of the Safe and Supportive Schools Framework and to make ongoing recommendations and propose drafts of legislation.

A special thank you to the lead sponsors, Rep. Ruth Balser and Sen. Sal DiDomenico, and House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray for their leadership.

Read section 6 of the bill adopted by the legislature.

Read more about the advocacy of MAC’s Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative.