'Medical Home' Approach coordinates services, care for kids with Autism

Among the many challenges faced by families of children with autism is how to coordinate behavioral treatment with other medical services.

That’s why the state Department of Health plans to fund studies of a new approach called “medical home,” in which an autistic child’s pediatrician works closely with behavioral and other specialists.

Primary-care practices and health insurers across the state are already adopting the “medical home” model as a way to better coordinate care.

But the state initiative, known as the Autism Health Needs Medical Home Pilot Projects, would fund studies of “medical home” models with a twist, targeting patients with autism, rather than a broad group of patients in a doctor’s practice.

The issue is particularly important in New Jersey, which has the highest rate of autism diagnoses in the country, with estimated one in 45 children with the disorder, with one diagnosis for every 27 boys and one diagnosis for every 133 girls.

The state is specifically looking to fund studies, to be conducted over a two-year period, focused on getting specialists to pool their efforts in order to treat “the whole person,” rather than limiting their role to the narrow concerns of their specialty.

“We hope that this will inform our future work, ensuring that we increase the effectiveness of our programs statewide,” said state Health Commissioner Mary E. O’Dowd.

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