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License Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) (S7017, A10064)

Please support licensure for Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) to practice ABA in New York.

A recent CDC report on the prevalence of autism was stunning: 1 in 88. In boys, the number is an unbelievable 1 in 54. Access to experts who are trained in the area of autism is critical to ensure families have appropriate help and that children receive effective treatment.

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is the most effective intervention for autism known to date, supported by various academic associations, government agencies, and medical authorities. However, access to BCBAs who are trained in ABA is severely limited in New York State because New York does not recognize, nor license professionals who are BCBAs.

A bill to license Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) has been introduced in the New York Legislature by Senator John Flanagan of the Second Senate District on Long Island. The Bill is S7017: “An ACT to amend the education law, in relation to providing for the licensure of behavior analysts.”  A companion bill has been introduced by Assemblyman Joseph Morelle of the 132nd District. The Bill is A10064: "Provides for the licensure of behavior analysts."  

Board Certified Behavior Analysts are specifically identified in the autism insurance reform law signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo in late 2011. However, without licensure of behavior analysts—which would be provided by these two bills--families will continue to have difficulty accessing qualified providers of these behavioral health services.

1. In 2011, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill requiring certain private health insurance plans to pay for autism treatments, including "behavioral health treatments that are necessary to develop, maintain, or restore, to the maximum extent practicable, the functioning of an individual." The term "behavioral health treatments" encompasses counseling and treatment programs when provided by a licensed provider, and applied behavior analysis when provided or supervised by a behavior analyst certified by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. In 2010, the Department of Health allowed behavior analysts to be providers in the early intervention program. However, to ensure that consumers will be able to access ABA services from qualified professionals, and that those professionals will be able to bill insurance companies for their services, NYSABA believes it is important to secure state licensure of behavior analysts.

2. As of 2006, there were 15,459 children between the ages of 4 and 21 that were identified with autism in New York, and 11,569 (or over 70%) were between the ages of 4 and 13. Access to properly trained and credentialed ABA providers is necessary to ensure that those individuals receive appropriate treatment.

3. Today, there are more than 10,000 behavior analysts certified by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board around the world, but only 600 in New York. Licensure will clearly change that dynamic and keep qualified professional behavior analysts in New York to meet the growing demand for ABA services.

4. Focused and comprehensive ABA interventions reduce healthcare utilization and costs for people with autism - some analysts argue as much as $1 million per individual - by ameliorating the core symptoms of autism, increasing personal safety and self-help skills, increasing cooperation with medical and dental care routines, and decreasing behaviors that often result in costly (and largely ineffective) medication and hospitalizations (e.g., eating problems, sleeping problems, self-injury, elopement, aggression, and pica).

5. Under the plan proposed by OPWDD (NYS Office for People with Developmental Disabilities) for responding to the impending expiration of the exemption from psychology licensing law, only people with master's degrees in psychology will be eligible to serve in the Applied Behavior Sciences Specialist (ABSS) role in not-for profit agencies serving individuals with developmental disabilities. Licensing of behavior analysts should allow behavior analysts to qualify for those positions, thereby increasing both the number of appropriately trained staff for the agencies and access to effective services for consumers.

6. Currently, 12 colleges and universities in New York offer programs to train ABA practitioners. These programs are dispersed geographically throughout New York and are located at both public and private universities. For instance, SUNY Stony Brook and Binghamton as well as Columbia, Russell Sage, University of Rochester, and Queens College of the City University of New York. All of these universities have programs with Behavior Analysis Certification Board-approved course sequences. Other such programs are located in hundreds of colleges and universities around the world.

7. Currently, 31 states have passed some form of autism insurance reform. In many of these states, a separate license to practice as a behavior analyst is not required. These autism insurance reform laws simply recognize Board Certified Behavior Analysts as qualified to provide or supervise ABA services. NYSABA has concluded that licensure is the preferred option for practice in New York State.  

8. In 8 states with autism insurance reform, licensure of behavior analysts already exists. Because the licensure is defined and governed by each state individually, there are several different "models": Wisconsin, Kentucky, and Missouri license behavior analysts under autonomous behavior analyst licensing boards with BACB certification serving as the principal requirement for licensure. In Arizona, Missouri, Nevada, and North Dakota, behavior analysts are licensed by the state but the state's psychology board determines the requirements for that license and oversees the practice of behavior analysis. A law adopted recently in Virginia will have behavior analysts (defined as individuals certified by the BACB) licensed under the Board of Medicine

Please note that the licensure bill has been crafted to limit those costs in the following ways: No new licensing board would be created; licensed behavior analysts would be regulated by an existing board; Certification by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board would be the principal requirement for licensure. The BACB performs many of the functions of state licensing boards (e.g., vetting applicants for the credential, administering and managing a valid professional examination, requiring continuing education, and enforcing professional disciplinary and ethical standards), so the state will not have to incur those costs; and, The bill proposes a fee to be paid by each licensee ($170/ three years) to cover the remaining regulatory costs.

Licensure of BCBAs will attract qualified BCBAs in New York and elsewhere to meet a critical demand. It is now time for New York to step up for the tens of thousands of children and families affected by autism.

Thank you in advance for your support of S7017 and A10064!

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