Monday, July 21, 2014

Survey Response: Christine Passey, Candidate for Utah House 44

Christine Passey
Candidates for the November 2014 elections were given the opportunity to respond to a few questions relating to autism. The following responses are from Christine Passey, candidate for Utah Chamber House 44.

Christine has been a core part of the Utah Autism Coalition for many years and was vice president in 2013/2014, providing crucial leadership and advocacy that led to the passage of SB57.
Christine Passey:
I’m proud to be part of the autism community.
I am proud to call myself a part of the autism community.  We are a family.  Autism events are always like family reunions for me.  Our work together at the legislature is what inspired me to run for office.  We are everyday people, and we moved mountains.  We don’t have money, we have limited time, we don’t really know powerful people, but we have a voice – and we made sure it was heard.  I began our journey to pass autism legislation a bit jaded towards government.  And although the system isn’t perfect, at my core I believe deeply in the power for good of the Utah State Legislature.  I am running to continue doing what I am passionate about – making a positive difference for everyday Utahns. 

Please help me win this election.  Just as it took lots of time and volunteer work to pass autism insurance legislation, it will take lots of time and volunteer work for me to win this election come November.  We all know autism and disabilities need a stronger voice on Capitol Hill.  And although I am not a one issue candidate, I will always look at the world through the lens of being an autism parent.

Please join my campaign as a volunteer – sign up here.

We are having a volunteer training on Monday July 21st7pm at: Utah State Democratic Party HQ, 825 N 300 W, Suite 400. Click here to see the Facebook event.

Insurance Coverage:   SB57 was passed in the 2014 legislative session. It goes into effect on January 1, 2016, and among other things, will require individual and large group plans to cover a limited amount of behavioral therapy for autistic children through age 9. The bill has a sunset clause which will cause it to expire on January 1, 2019. 

Would you support renewal or expansion of SB57 if the costs prove to be manageable?

Christine Passey:   
I am proud to have been part of the passage of SB57! As a community we worked so hard for years and years to educate legislators about the importance of autism insurance legislation. The process of working on autism insurance legislation is what inspired me to run for office. I witnessed firsthand the difference we - regular everyday people - made. Together we changed the future for thousands and thousands of children with autism across the state of Utah. I will never forget the moment we passed out of our hardest committee – House Business & Labor – with a unanimous vote. Wow – words can’t express how amazing this process was. I will always be inspired by our community’s strength, perseverance, and determination.

There is no question I will be working hard to renew and expand SB57 in the coming years. We know what the costs are as we have years and years of data from numerous states.

WanderingWandering (or elopement) is an issue that affects around half of children with ASD, as well as many people with Alzheimer’s and dementia. There are substantial costs involved with search efforts that often require emergency personnel. There are also promising technologies, such as smartphones, GPS, and Bluetooth, which can help with tracking these individuals. 

 Would you support efforts to:
  • better understand the extent of the wandering problem in Utah
  • promote training for emergency personnel
  • identify technological solutions and help make them affordable for caregivers
Christine Passey 
I have experienced wandering first hand and it is terrifying! The minutes spent searching for your child feels like hours. Wandering is every autism parent’s worst nightmare. We have seen too many sad cases of children with autism wandering away with tragic results. And wandering doesn't just affect our community either. Children and adults with other developmental disabilities as well as people with dementia and Alzheimer’s all suffer from wandering as well.

We must address wandering before another child’s/adult’s wandering ends tragically. I support all efforts to address wandering. I will be actively engaging in the conversations about wandering in Utah and what we can do as a community, and as a state, to actively address wandering.

Education: Education is a priority for many UAC members. Kids on the spectrum often require special education resources.

What do you see as the current state of the Utah education system, including Special Ed, and what steps would you support to improve it?

Christine Passey:   
Right now our education system is poorly underfunded. The statistics on how this crisis in funding affects “typical” children are staggering. This continual under funding seems to hit special needs children the hardest as we lose paraprofessionals, the services in our kids IEP’s shrink, and our kids class sizes grow. Our kids are receiving less and less of the individualized attention they MUST have to make progress. This crisis in funding MUST be addressed. Tackling education funding is one of my top priorities; this includes improving funding for special education.

Housing and Employment: When autistic people transition out of the public school system, many of them need help with housing and employment. According to the 2013 Annual Report of the Utah Division of Services for People with Disabilities, Over 5,000 Utahns received services, and 80% of them had an intellectual disability. Another 1,892 Utahns are on the waiting list.

Would you support steps to improve housing and employment opportunities for individuals with autism?

Christine Passey:  
Right now there is a black hole for so many adults with special needs.  There are major gaps in employment opportunities, housing, and general services for these adults.  The almost 2,000 people on the waiting list for DSPD is staggering. 

80% of the adults on the DSPD waiting list have developmental disabilities. I know many parents who have had to quit their jobs and deal with enormous financial difficulties once their child transitioned out of the school system because of the lack of resources. I know of adults with special needs who had job skills when they left the school system but digressed because there were no opportunities available for them to use their skills. I know of families who are forced into a corner, although they want to keep their child with special needs with them they can’t because of the lack of resources. Instead many families are forced to turn their adult child over to state custody so they can actually access services.

I will be engaged and working to improve services for adults with special needs, including improving house and employment opportunities.