A group of parents, therapists and legislators announced that a new state law making it a crime to wrongly represent oneself as an autism therapist takes effect on Oct. 1—eighteen months after a New York woman was arrested for scamming Fairfield County schools and parents out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Public Act 11-228, which unanimously of the General Assembly and which was signed into law on July 13, makes it a crime as of tomorrow for anyone to represent himself or herself as a “board certified behavior analyst.” Any person violating this provision is guilty of a felony punishable by up to a $500 fine, imprisonment for up to five years, or both. Each illegal contact or consultation constitutes a separate offense.
The second part of the new state law takes effect next year on July 1, 2012 and requires school districts to use only licensed or certified behavior analysts to provide applied behavior analysis for students with autism spectrum disorders.
The new law was prompted by the case of a New York woman, Stacy Lore, who was found guilty in 2010 of forging credentials in order to treat autistic children throughout Fairfield County. Lore, who was hired by both the Norwalk and Weston public school systems, reportedly charged taxpayers and parents more than $400,000 for what proved to be fraudulent autism spectrum services.
“Because of all of our collaborative work with the legislature, we have achieved not only the absence of evil, but the presence of justice,” said Maria Domenici of Westport, whose child was seen by Lore. “The passage of this new law creates justice for families and the children who are challenged by autism, and that’s a great thing. It’s a great example of government cooperation to help people.”
“The advocates brought this matter to their attention, and the legislature led the charge on it—and they did it in a bipartisan manner,” said Suzanne Letso, Chief Executive Officer of the Connecticut Center for Child Development in Milford. “I’ve never been so impressed with the political system. The two parties put political affiliation second to the needs of young children with autism and they made this bill a reality.”
“This is how democratic government is supposed to work,” state Senator Bob Duff (D-Norwalk) said. “A group of concerned parents came to us, successfully advocated for a change in state law, and now we’ve taken action to prevent other parents from going through a similar, tragic ordeal in the future.”
“Sometimes it takes an incident such as the one we experienced crystallize the need for legislative action,” said House Minority Leader Larry Cafero (R-Norwalk). “We all realized the need to address this issue and we did so in a collaborative fashion without regard for politics. I’m very proud of the work done on all fronts—from the parents and families to experts in the field of autism and in the legislature—that has gotten us to this day.’’
“Clearly there was a gap in our laws regarding criminal impersonation that needed to be filled,” said Senate Majority Leader Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven). “Someone who engages in the type of unconscionable practices that we saw in the Fairfield County needs to be punished appropriately for the harm caused to families and children.”
This is the third year in a row that a bipartisan coalition of state legislators has moved to strengthen and improve services for those with autism. In 2009, the General Assembly approved a bill that made Connecticut the 9th state in the nation with a comprehensive autism insurance mandate. In 2010 the General Assembly passed a bill that for the first time required school districts to regulate the administration and supervision of behavior therapy for autistic children.
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