Friday, October 14, 2016

Survey Response: Christine Passey, Candidate for UT House 44

Survey Response:  Christine Passey, Candidate for UT House 44 

Candidates for the November 2016 elections were given the opportunity to answer a few questions relating to autism.  The following are Christine Passey’s responses. 

Health Insurance:  In 2014, the Utah legislature passed a law requiring some state-regulated health insurance plans to cover autism, including a limited amount of therapy for children ages 2-9.  This law went into effect in 2016 and will sunset in 2019.  Would you consider renewing it or expanding it in any way, such as increasing age or coverage limits?
Christine Passey:    Working on this legislation is what inspired me to run for office in the first place. Watching everyday Utahns from across the state take down the insurance lobby was inspiring to me. This inspiration is what led me to file for office a short 18 hours after we passed the insurance mandate in 2014.  There is no question that I would expand both the age limit and the coverage limits of this law. I have spoken with Senator Shiozawa about this and plan on being a lead advocate on this legislation.

Medicaid:  In the past year, Medicaid has begun covering autism up to age 21 for people who meet the income requirements. What is your position on Medicaid expansion?

Christine Passey:  The Healthy Utah plan, that 70% of Utahns supported, was killed because of political infighting. It would have covered roughly 280 thousand people. Instead a plan that is covering less than 10 thousand people passed while we are all still paying the taxes of the full Medicaid expansion.  I am in full support of the Medicaid expansion and have plans to work with Senator Shiozawa on the legislation he will be introducing in the Senate.

Education:  Special Education is very important to students who need it.  Utah “needs assistance” when it comes to meeting the requirements of IDEA.  What would you change about the Utah education system, both in general and special education?

Christine Passey:  Without question Utah’s education system needs more funding. I want to increase the severance tax rate on oil companies and similar companies and put the increased revenue into education. Our severance tax rate is less than half the rate of surrounding states. Right now we are basically giving oil companies a tax break at the expense of our schools.  Specific to special education we need to keep our good teachers who are burning out. We also need to provide students more time with professionals like speech therapists, occupational therapist, etc. An increase in the calculation of the WPU for special education students would help bring in more services and resources to the classrooms.

Financial Planning:  Utah passed legislation in 2015 to help disabled Utahns and their families plan for the future through ABLE accounts (similar to 529 college savings plans).  They are not yet available.   Do you support efforts to make sure that disabled Utahns can access ABLE accounts?

Christine Passey:  I have advocated national for the ABLE act and I testified at the hearing for the Utah ABLE act. Before I testified I was told the committee had plans to remove the $500 Utah tax credit that was offered as part of the ABLE act. In my testimony I explained that families of children with special needs live one socio-economic class lower than their peers without children with special needs. Because of this fact I asked the committee to keep the $500 tax credit. The law passed with the inclusion of the $500 tax credit. I will do whatever I can to help implement the ABLE act.

Police:  People with autism may have difficulty understanding and complying with police orders.  They may also be prone to meltdowns or be overwhelmed by lights and sirens.  Two examples of where this can lead are reported here and here.  Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) trained officers are recognized to be the most capable of responding to situations involving the mentally ill, and Utah has an excellent CIT program.  The Utah 911 board has considered adopting a system (Smart911) that, in addition to other benefits, would help ensure that CIT officers are dispatched when needed by letting citizens pre-register with 911 and sharing their information with dispatchers and officers when a call is made.  What are your thoughts on the CIT program?  Would you support the adoption of a system like Smart911?

Christine Passey: The CIT program is a very impressive program and I have the opportunity of being involved in this program and similar programs as the Coordinator for Disability Rights in the Salt Lake City Mayor’s Office. On top of the CIT program I believe all police officers should have additional training on autism, developmental disabilities and mental illness. I am proud to have the opportunity to engage in discussions on how to provide more of these types of trainings to police officers.

As for the Smart911 program I'd like to understand it more before I make an absolute statement about it. I am part of the Emergency Management Team for Salt Lake City and a member of the Emergency Operation Center when activated. My entire role in this is to ensure people with access needs and disabilities are considered and taken care of in all aspects of emergency response. As I've attended FEMA trainings and worked with first responders I have learned there is a lot of concern with registry systems. I think a full discussion on how it will be implemented and how it will be used is necessary.

Personal experience:  The autism rate in Utah is 1 in 54.  Your family and social circle doesn’t have to be very large before it includes someone with autism.  If you want to share any personal or professional experience with autism, please do so. 

Christine Passey:  My 8 year old daughter Skylynn has autism. She is my inspiration for getting involved in politics to begin with. As an autism parent I understand autism better than any other legislator possibly could. My advocacy began as the Vice President of the UAC from 2011 to 2014. I stepped down from the UAC at the point I ran for office. I am dedicated to fighting for autism and all disabilities. It is my reason for running for office and will be my passion when I am elected.  We need a legislator that understands autism – not just one that cares about it!