Friday, July 18, 2014

Survey Response: Jani Iwamoto, Candidate for Utah Senate 4

Jani Iwamoto
Candidates for the November 2014 elections were given the opportunity to respond to a few questions relating to autism. The following responses are from Jani Iwamoto, candidate for Utah Senate District 4.

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?

Jani Iwamoto:   
I was very pleased to see the passage of SB57 during the 2014 legislative session. Please note that I have not read the entire bill. With regard to supporting renewal or expansion of SB 57 - if it is determined that it makes sense to expand, I would support it. I am not always a fan of sunset clauses for legislation. Good legislation can always be made better and that’s what I would propose for SB57 (rather than the possibility of having it expire), complete with an economic impact statement.

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
Jani Iwamoto 
Those of us with elderly family members are concerned about wandering. We have available and affordable technology and I would support legislation to make that technology available. I would support a pilot program on any one or more things to see if they work – if they work, then I would support having the pilot program become a regular program. And, yes, I would support efforts to better understand the extent of the wandering problem and promote training for emergency personnel, among other things.

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?

Jani Iwamoto:   
Thirty five years ago, Governor Scott Matheson’s administration identified education
as Utah’s number one priority. That hasn’t changed. We still have more kids than we
have allocated resources. In general, Utah can do better to make sure our class sizes are reasonable and our teachers are paid a fair wage. I am supportive of Special Ed services, such as those at Carmen B. Pingree Center for Children with Autism. Also, with the involvement of parents and teachers, if a child can be mainstreamed, I feel that child deserves to be mainstreamed – to be in a classroom and to have the benefits of socialization with other children.

I also am aware that school districts provide support and classes through the 21st birthday for children that qualify for special education – if it is not presently included for children with autism, I would support (if there was an interest and need by the teachers
and families) to have their children receive those benefits as well.

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?

Jani Iwamoto:  
Yes, I would support housing and employment opportunities for individuals with autism.
Waiting lists are a sure sign of system failure. If we are able to properly care for more than 70% of the needs, that means we have a road map to address the other 30%.