Governor Jay Nixon joined members of the community at the Thompson center for Autism Friday in Columbia to announce that his proposed Fiscal Year 2017 budget will include investments in services for Missourians with developmental disabilities
Nixon said his budget would invest a total of $131 million in additional state and federal funding for the Development of Mental Health-Division of Developmental Disabilities. Of the proposed budget, Nixon said $5 million would fund an expansion of the University of Missouri-owned Thompson Center.
Per a media release, the expansion would allow an additional 2,000 visits each year by expanding research space and by training 100 more providers over the next five years.
“This expansion will mean more cutting edge research to identify the most effective treatments and more opportunities for community engagement like workshops for parents and training for businesses,” Nixon said. “A new program called Stride will help teenagers with autism transition into adulthood with life skills and job training.”
Lora Hinkel’s 13-year-old son Blake was diagnosed with autism before his second birthday. Lora said she believes Blake would be non-verbal if not for the support of the Thompson Center.
“Our son started at the center ten years ago when it started and now we’re looking at transition – what do we do when he’s out of school? What do we do when he’s in the job market? And those areas are now just being touched upon in our society in Columbia,” Lora said. “The offer of this money will help be able to expand this opportunity not just for my son but for so many other children in this area.”
Governor Nixon said his proposed budget will also include $1 million to create an autism clinic at Truman State University, and $500,000 to expand services at the Mercy Kids Autism Center in both St. Louis and St. Charles.
“The demand for services and training for services far outpaces the supply and partnering with these outstanding higher-education institutions, with the leadership of the University of Missouri, we can provide the human-capital resources necessary to meet the human needs of the future,” Nixon said.
Hinkel said the funding and support of the center has provided Blake with a central location to receive all necessary services and treatments.
“Before the center opened, you would have a physical therapist in one place, an occupational therapist in another, you would have to travel and as a parent, you have to figure that out yourself,” Hinkel said. “You have to piecemeal all of these different things, hope you were doing the right thing, flying by the seat of your pants where as now, you have people to help guide you through that journey giving you research based interventions, and that’s made all the difference for Blake.”
Nixon will present a full budget proposal before his State of the State speech on Wednesday.