Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Survey Response: Eileen Lentz, Candidate for Utah House 35

Eileen Lentz
Candidates for the November 2014 elections were given the opportunity to respond to a few questions relating to autism. The following responses are from Eileen Lentz, candidate for Utah House District 35.

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?

Eileen Lentz:   
Yes. However, I do not believe the current health insurance system is sustainable and will collapse upon itself if we do not do something drastic to change it. I purpose that the best way to save money is to remove the red tape that requires substantial expense to administer, and removes the self determination of the parents and caregivers.

The major portion of our health coverage should be switched to healthcare savings accounts, which would be used at the complete discretion of the holder of the accounts and their parents and caregivers. Health Insurance should only be major medical and special needs insurance, which autism disorders would qualify for additional support. The limited coverage mandated by SB57 should be expanded to cover additional needs identified as well.

See the expanded discussion here.

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
Eileen Lentz 
Yes. Educating the public and emergency personnel is crucial to managing the problem most effectively and appropriately. Identifying technological solutions and making them readily available according to the specific needs of each individual family situation is obviously the best way to go. It was very helpful to watch the video you have on your website about it.

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?

Eileen Lentz:   
As a special education teacher, I saw some major weaknesses in the Utah education system, particularly for students with special needs. In fact, it is one of the major reason I decided to run for the Utah Legislature because I know what to do to fix it. My whole life's experience has been about learning how to make the highest learning accessible to each individual student and empowering each child, parent and teacher to reach their highest potential.

In Utah, we are wasting millions on systems that interfere with that ideal. In Pennsylvania, I worked in a school district that made many of the changes I am suggesting. However, I researched and talked with hundreds of students, parents and teachers (including children and adults with autism) about their struggles with the Utah's education system specifically, and the whole education system in general. I used that research to develop a more complete and efficacious system that centers the control in the hands of parents and teachers, and ultimately, the student. The role of administrators, agencies and government entities would have a major paradigm shift from dictating to facilitating.

There would no longer be the overwhelming struggle to get the system to meet the needs of the child with autism. That energy can then be shifted to the collaboration that brings the resources needed to the exciting world of learning. Then the cost of Utah education will be worth it.

See the expanded discussion here.

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?

Eileen Lentz:  
When I taught at a high school in Pennsylvania, some of the teachers on our special education team worked with juniors and seniors to transition to the "real world." However, we integrated those life skills into the curriculum throughout the student's entire school experience. For instance, we taught budgeting and managing checking and savings accounts. We had field trips for banking, grocery or clothes shopping, places of employment, and community establishments. We individualized the student’s education according to what they wanted to be doing with their life with as real experiences as possible. When I was working as a restaurant supervisor at Hershey Park, I worked with several students with special needs and their job coaches. My children have worked as job coaches or assistants for adults with special needs.

Having struggled through many years of convoluted and completely unnecessary bureaucratic nonsense for my own disabilities, I understand how difficult it is to obtain promised benefits. In addition to my experience with this issue, I would ask for your help in understanding some of the specific challenges that keep this many on a waiting list. I am a diligent problem solver, and will energetically help facilitate a solution.

Ms. Lentz adds:

Please see my calendar of events to see when and where to meet with me or contact me to set up a meeting or participate in Google Hangouts, etc.