Thursday, July 10, 2014

Survey Response: Wayne Stevens, Candidate for Utah Senate 26

Candidates for the November 2014 elections were given the opportunity to respond to a few questions relating to autism. The following responses are from Wayne Stevens, candidate for Utah Senate District 26.

Wayne Stevens:  
Thank you for your interest in my campaign and thank you for your questionnaire. 

I am woefully ignorant about autism. I ask your forgiveness if I give an answer or statement that is in error. However, autism, as all other medical conditions, should be researched and treated aggressively.

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?

Wayne Stevens:   I am not familiar with SB57, however, I do support the ACA. I believe all medical issues should be covered by all health insurance policies. I would indeed support expansion and renewal of SB57 regardless of cost. It is important that individuals suffering with autism have the newest and best treatments covered by all insurance plans including Medicare/Medicaid.

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
Wayne Stevens

I would like to address the training of emergency personnel first. I was an EMT for almost 25 years and worked on two different ambulance services: one in Vernal, Utah, the other in Ely, Nevada. I spent 20 years as a law enforcement officer for the Bureau of Land Management. As a law enforcement officer and EMT, I did not have training of any kind on how to identify or approach someone suffering from autism or Alzheimer’s who was wandering. From my experience (and hindsight), as an emergency responder, it would have been a great benefit to have had training on how to approach these individuals without frightening them and perhaps to know where to look for them (this is part of my ignorance). I think training on autistic wandering is a very necessary and beneficial training for all emergency personnel.  The safety of a wandering person is just as important as the safety of someone without the medical conditions that lead to wandering.

Also having a better understanding of wandering, not just in Utah, but in general would also help to stop, slow down, and find those who wander away from facilities.

I also support the use of technologies that would help caregivers in "keeping track" and assisting in creating a more friendly and safe atmosphere for these individuals.

In short, I support, training (and funding for training) for emergency personnel; obtaining a better understanding of wandering; and identifying technological solutions to help make them affordable for caregivers.

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?

Wayne Stevens:   

Utah is last in the United States in per pupil spending. This should not be tolerated by our state legislature or Utah’s citizens.

There is one major issue that is affecting education in Utah: its high student-­teacher ratio. I would like to bring this ratio down so students needing "one on one" instruction can get it. I would also seek funding to hire more teachers, raise teachers’ wages to keep them, and get more classrooms.

I applaud Utah's adoption of the Common Core State Standards, which were developed by teachers and state experts from around the country.

My knowledge on Special Education is severely lacking. I think more teachers trained in instructing special needs children, and goals and a curriculum that is achievable by these students is necessary and needed. I realize that these individuals, as well as non­special education students may need specialized classes to help them with their education. I think these types of classes should be developed. I would support the endeavor to develop such programs.

In education, as in many other subjects, "one size does not fit all." I think the state and legislature must understand this.

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?

Wayne Stevens: 

I support housing and employment for those who need it. I would seek a partnership of state, federal governments and the business sector to develop housing and jobs for all people with disabilities and our homeless veterans. Working with the BLM for almost 30 years, I saw first hand so called "disabled people" who worked for the BLM. One was a quadriplegic with limited use of his arms. He worked the front desk and answered telephones. The other suffered from a growth/bone disease. She worked as clerk/typist. Both were confined to wheelchairs. Both were productive. I am certain that everyone has stories such as these and I believe that jobs should be available to "disabled persons" if they wish to work.