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A Conversation with Marla Root

August 04, 2020 7:58 PM | Anonymous

The OHABA Public Policy Committee is interested in the experiences of behavior analysts whose work intersects directly with an Ohio law, rule, or regulation. In advocating for our clients and our science, we can collectively explore public policy and determine if there are barriers affecting behavior analysis in Ohio. 

Marla Root is a tireless advocate for individuals with disabilities in Ohio. She has been involved in the disability community as a consumer of services, an administrator for a large service provider and an advocate. She was the 2010 advocate of the year recipient awarded by The Governor’s Council for People with Disabilities and was the Public Policy Chair for the Autism Society of Ohio for many years. She spearheads the Ohio Autism Insurance Coalition and the Illinois Autism Insurance Coalition. She received the 2018 Autism Speaks Implementation Award for her efforts monitoring Ohio’s Autism Mandate. Marla is an active member of OHABA’s Public Policy Committee and was asked to share information about multi-system youth funding and the Mental Health Parity Act, two topics in which she is extremely familiar. 

Marla’s work contributed to added funding for multi-system youth in Ohio’s budget. According to the Center for Community Solutions, multi-system youth (MSY) are “children and teenagers with complex needs that cannot be met by a single state department. These children have two or more significant challenges, including physical or mental illness, drug or alcohol addiction, developmental disabilities or severe trauma. They are involved, or at risk of becoming involved, with either or both the child protection or juvenile justice systems.” Before this funding, services for these children were not coordinated and families struggled to find, and then afford, the resources for their children. As a result, families were faced with a horrible decision to relinquish custody in order to access appropriate care. The Public Children’s Services Association of Ohio has indicated the nearly 1 in 3 multi-system youth that are in the child protection system are there due to custody relinquishment. 

Now there is $18 million dollars allocated to multi-system youth in Ohio. Children that are engaging in crisis level behavior can now receive funding to support in-home services to avoid out-of-home placements. Money is also available to help fund out-of-home placements. For behavior analysts who are often working with clients engaging in crisis level behavior, it is crucial to become familiar with this funding. Families should reach out to their county’s Family and Children First Council (FCFC) to learn more. Below are links to the local FCFCs and the link to apply for funding:

Link to local county FCFCs

Marla has been involved in a workgroup dedicated to updating Ohio’s mental health parity law. The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act was passed by the federal government in 2008. This act bans insurance companies from providing limits on coverage for this with substance abuse and mental health disorders. These types of limits have affected many children and adults that require medically necessary ABA services. However, too many insurers do not comply with the law, including some state Medicaid programs. Ohio’s parity law was created in 2006 and does not align with the federal law. In December 2019, Ohio State Senators Theresa Garavone and Sean O’Brien introduced legislation to update Ohio’s parity law to align with the federal parity law. 

While this is good news for individuals and families needing access to ABA services, the law has not yet passed. It is important for behavior analysts in Ohio to be aware of the discrepancies in the parity laws and support efforts to provide Ohio citizens access to treatment for all illnesses--physical and mental. It is dually important for behavior analysts to disseminate support this legislation and ensure that the benefits of ABA treatment, and the barriers to accessing services, are known to the public. The OHABA Public Policy Committee looks forward to joining Marla in continued advocacy for this law. 

If you have had an experience with an Ohio law, rule, or regulation and would like to share your success and or struggles, let us know! 

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Address: PO Box 1072 Westerville, OH 43086

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