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AHCA Restricting Access To Public Meetings For ABA Therapy

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Daylina Miller/WUSF Public Media
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The state Agency for Health Care Administration is limiting how many people can attend a series of public meetings after so many people showed up to a meeting in Tampa earlier this month that AHCA split it into two sessions.

The meetings are intended to address proposed changes to a Medicaid program that covers applied behavior analysis therapy for children on the autism spectrum.

AHCA is limiting capacity to 150 or less. Attendees have to register in advance online, and most of these slots are already filled by providers who got email alerts directly from the agency. They say AHCA did not reach out to parents, locking them out of meetings that could impact their children’s services.

M. Kate Sallade, a board certified behavior analyst in in Deltona, said rallies organized outside each AHCA field office will help give parents a voice.

“We're providing opportunities for them to make some signs for them to use when they're at the rally,” Sallade said. “We're providing them opportunities to fill out a puzzle piece postcard and mail it to the senators and legislators and governor."

Sallade and other providers say AHCA could have held the meetings in bigger venues instead of their small field offices. She also suggested they ask people to register at Eventbrite - without limiting attendance - to help them get a head count for additional meetings.  

AHCA officials say they'll post a pre-recorded video online. It’s not known whether future meetings will be recorded or livestreamed to include public comment.

Sallade says AHCA is being reactive, and trying to push through proposed rules changes in order for them to take effect in July. Some of these changes are already being implemented, many parents and providers say, despite AHCA claiming otherwise.

One of these changes is new multidisciplinary meetings headed up by a registered nurse or social worker, neither of which has to have behavior analysis experience, to look at provider behavior plans and doctor recommendations to determine whether a child should be receiving services.

AHCA officials say these reviews aren’t yet happening. Sallade said parents are reporting otherwise.

“We’ve had multiple reports that these meetings and these phone calls are already occurring. However, in Tampa, they reported in the middle of the meeting, in front of the camera, that AHCA is not conducting any of these meetings, has not engaged in any if these call outs so they don’t know where they’re coming from," said Sallade.

“This is a very dangerous situation that they’re putting these families in, where individuals they do not know are showing up to their house, demanding to be let in and to review their child and get personal health information from that family - and AHCA is denying it’s people that work from them.”

The agency has also started moving forward with GPS tracking of providers, which Sallade said will cost millions of dollars that could be saved by having caregivers of these children sign a form to prove services were completed.

The agency temporarily postponed rate changes to registered behavior technicians and other positions that work directly with children.

Meetings and rallies are being held in Orlando, Jacksonville, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale and Pensecola.

Copyright 2019 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7

Daylina Miller is a multimedia reporter for WUSF and Health News Florida, covering health in the Tampa Bay area and across the state.
Daylina Miller
Daylina Miller, multimedia reporter for Health News Florida, was hired to help further expand health coverage statewide.