Healthcare Initiative Happenings

May 10, 2023

It’s been a busy Spring for Autism New Jersey’s Advancing Healthcare Initiative!

Autism New Jersey is dedicated to addressing the barriers that exist in healthcare access for individuals with autism.

Educating Health Profession Students

One barrier is the lack of education and training on autism and autism-friendly practices for healthcare professionals. We were pleased to have several educational institutions recognize this need and reach out for support in providing more information on autism to students.

First, in February, our Director of Clinical Initiatives, Lauren Frederick, M.A., BCBA presented a 2-hour lecture to students enrolled in the Radiology Program at Hudson County Community College. An overview of Autism Spectrum Disorder, how it can impact medical interactions, and strategies to support autistic patients more effectively and compassionately will help these students care for patients with different needs.

In March, Autism New Jersey had the opportunity to collaborate with a group of motivated medical students at The Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine. Lauren presented to their Doctors for Disabilities Club on autism-friendly practices and the resources Autism New Jersey can provide. The meeting also included the lived experience of a parent of a child with profound autism and was an engaging event. Seeing medical students go above and beyond their required learning to gain insight into the experiences of autistic patients is an exciting indication of the change that is happening!

Medical & Behavioral Professional Collaboration

Lauren Frederick (r) and Oana de Vinck-Baroody (l)

Another barrier to high quality and compassionate healthcare for individuals with autism is a lack of interdisciplinary collaboration between medical and behavioral professionals. Autism New Jersey’s Power of Connection was on full display at New Jersey Association for Behavior Analysis’ Annual Conference in March. We were thrilled to co-present “Autism and Health Outcomes: How Behavior Analysis Can Help Improve Access to Quality Healthcare” with Oana DeVinck-Baroody, D.O., a developmental behavioral pediatrician at Hackensack Meridian Health’s Institute for Child Development.

This type of presentation is one part of breaking down the barrier of collaboration across disciplines, and it hopefully inspired the behavior analysts in the audience to take a more active role in helping people with autism access healthcare! Also in the audience was Nickolas Carros, DSW, LCSW, Senior Director of Behavioral Health Clinical Services for Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey. Horizon is invested in working on healthcare access issues and health disparity experienced by autistic individuals. Nick is looking forward to working with Autism New Jersey on how HBCBSNJ’s Integrated System of Care program can be piloted with beneficiaries with autism to improve their healthcare experiences.

Improving Outcomes with a Behavioral Approach

Continuing our work with colleagues at Hackensack Meridian Health’s Institute for Child Development, Lauren was invited to present at Grand Rounds in April. HMH has recently hired a behavior analyst to collaborate with their medical teams, and Lauren was able to highlight for those in attendance how behavioral approaches can help improve hospital experiences and health outcomes.

Addressing Systemic Healthcare Barriers

Dr. Jennifer LeComte, Medical Director of the Rowan Virtua Regionally Integrated Special Needs Center, was presented a Hope Hero Award at the Night of Hope.

Finally, Autism New Jersey’s Advancing Healthcare Initiative is dedicated to breaking down systemic barriers by driving high-level and coordinated efforts to achieve equity in healthcare access for autistic individuals. In April, we launched the Autism New Jersey Healthcare Consortium in conjunction with the North Ward Center’s Night of Hope. This consortium is a dynamic group of leaders from healthcare systems, provider practices, trade-associations, autism services providers, and funders who will come together to create opportunities for innovative research, quality improvement projects, and other collaborative efforts that will improve healthcare access and outcomes for New Jerseyans with autism.

There is much more to be done to improve healthcare access and health outcomes for people with autism, and Autism New Jersey is proud to be at the forefront of a statewide approach. Learn more about our Advancing Healthcare Initiative and how you can be a part of the work!

Learn more about our Advancing Healthcare Initiative and the Healthcare Consortium.