Monday, July 21, 2014

Survey Response: Steve Olsen, Candidate for Utah House 9

Steve Olsen
Candidates for the November 2014 elections were given the opportunity to respond to a few questions relating to autism. The following responses are from Steve Olsen, candidate for Utah House District 9.

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?

Steve Olsen:   

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
Steve Olsen 
Yes to all.

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?

Steve Olsen:   
Education is seriously underfunded, and our teachers are forced to work in an environment where they are not respected. It's time to admit that the amendment in the 1990's to allow the Legislature to raid funding sources previously dedicated to public education, and the 2008 "flat tax" reform were mistakes. We need to repair those mistakes. A few proposals I would give serious consideration to include limiting deductions for children in large families, increasing severance taxes, and revising the tax code to include a moderate degree of progressive taxation for wealthy Utahns.

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?

Steve Olsen:  

Like many Utahns, I have a grandson in the 1st grade that is mildly autistic. He is lucky that his family lives in Connecticut, where there are excellent programs for children with special needs. As much as I would love to have Jamus and his two siblings living in Utah, I have to feel thankful they are where they are!