MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - South Carolina's Medicaid department is asking for $30 million to help fund the completion of a federal mandate to get all children living with autism treatment next year, said Colleen Mullins, public information officer for SC Department of Health and Human Services.
However, the state isn't equipped to handle even more children in the system.
"The state of South Carolina wants to do the right thing, but unfortunately we don't have the resources to provide for the kids that already have funding, let alone if we open it up more," said Debbie Wardell, founder of South Carolina Interventionist.
As is, Medicaid in South Carolina can pay for three years of a child's applied behavior analysis therapy up until age 11 through the waiver for pervasive developmental disorders, or PBB.
"ABA therapy is proven to work," said Kim Kuiken, who has a son living with autism. "My son is a walking witness to it. It is unbelievable when it is done consistently and for a long time. It shouldn't just be for three years. It should be constant."
One thousand children are already on a waiting list for that program, not including the children who have phased out and still need to continue treatment.
ABA therapy is the only proven treatment for autism and it's not usually always covered under private insurance, forcing parents to pay out of pocket or forego treatment altogether.
"It makes me angry because if my son had cancer he would get chemo, chemotherapy," said Kuiken, who has paid more than $100,000 for treatment in her son's lifetime. "For children with autism, you're lucky if they can get anything.
By expanding the program to include all children under the age of 18, South Carolina will need more than just funding. It will need service providers.
In South Carolina, there are about 120 ABA certified therapists compared to 400 in Florida and 300 in Delaware, Debbie Wardell said.
She said the only way to fix this problem is to get more people certified and into the field.
"Right now, I'm supervising in Charleston County, Georgetown County and Horry County" Wardell said.