Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Governor Signs PTSD, Autism Bills

Last Thursday Gov. Mary Fallin  signed into law two measures co-authored by State Rep. John Bennett (R-Sallisaw).

House Bill 2595, by Rep. Richard Morrissette (D-Oklahoma City), allows judges to consider veteran’s diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) when sentencing them for crimes. The bill allows the court to consider post-traumatic stress disorder as a mitigating factor when making sentencing decisions concerning a veteran who has been diagnosed as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, eleven percent of Afghanistan and Iraq veterans and 15 percent of Vietnam veterans have been diagnosed with PTSD; however, many more go undiagnosed because they do not seek treatment. Various studies have found that at least 30 percent of men and women who have spent time in war zones experience PTSD and an additional 20 to 25 percent have had partial PTSD at some point in their lives. 

“Our soldiers experience unfathomable physical and emotional events during combat, and often those events leave physical and emotional scars that are difficult for those soldiers to process and difficult for our medical system to treat,” said Bennett. “When these soldiers come home and are diagnosed with PTSD and then commit crimes as a result of that PTSD, we as a society need to use the court system to find them assistance, rather than just punishment. We owe our heroes more than that.”

Oklahoma has two PTSD diversion programs, one in Oklahoma County and another in Tulsa County. The bill was supported by the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Oklahoma Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs Rita Aragon and other military organizations and groups.

House Bill 2962, by Rep. Jason Nelson (R-Oklahoma City), requires health insurers to cover autism treatment for children. The bill requires a health benefit plan offered in Oklahoma to provide coverage for the screening, diagnosis and treatment of an autism spectrum disorder in children. The bill limits the yearly maximum benefit to $25,000, but would place no limits on number of visits.

The Legislature last considered an autism insurance reform bill in 2008, but those efforts were unsuccessful. Since then, 43 states have implemented some form of reform to health plans to provide treatment for autism disorders.

“The evidence shows that early intervention and treatment helps these kids become productive adults,” said Bennett. “But the costs for treatment are enormous and can bankrupt families. If we don’t do something, the state will be picking up the tab for these kids when they become unproductive and disabled adults. I think this bill is long overdue, and I am proud that I could help support its passage.”

Both measures will take effect on Nov. 1.

Sally Maxwell, Senior News Director

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