SALT LAKE CITY — A Senate committee voted unanimously Monday to renew a two-year pilot program that provides treatment for children with autism spectrum disorder.

If the bill ultimately passes, HB88 would allow for autism services to be provided through a Medicaid waiver program and a public employee health plan. The program previously included an autism treatment account, but funding for the account ends in June.

The Medicaid waiver covers about $29,000 a year of applied behavior analysis therapy for children ages 2–6. It also covers 10-15 hours of in-home therapy and up to three hours of respite for the family each week.

Without renewal by the legislation, the pilot program will last through June. During the first 18 months of the pilot program, therapy enrollment increased and about 300 children received treatment.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 47 individuals in Utah are on the autism spectrum — the highest rate in the United States.

Bill sponsor Rep. Ronda Menlove, R-Garland, said she anticipates renewing the Medicaid waiver would help about 270 Utah children.

“That’s just 10 percent of the children who will need services in the next year,” Menlove said. “So we’re making a dent, but not solving the problem.”

— Madeleine Brown