KALAMAZOO--Dr. R. Wayne Fuqua, chair of the Department of Psychology at Western Michigan University, is one of 12 appointees named to the newly created Michigan Autism Council by Gov. Rick Snyder on July 3. Fuqua also was among a select group invited to the State Capitol this spring as a new autism-related bill was signed into law.
Fuqua will represent state universities on the Michigan Autism Council, which was announced in late June and will operate within the Department of Community Health to oversee Michigan's Autism Spectrum Disorders state plan.
"The Michigan Autism Council will help coordinate our state plan and help make sure individuals with autism spectrum disorders and their families can live better lives," Snyder said when announcing the council's inaugural members. "I thank the appointees for their willingness to serve and eagerness to make a positive difference in the lives of others."
Executive Order 2012-11 created the council as an advisory body to review, adopt, implement and annually update the state ASD plan. The plan provides for comprehensive, lifespan supports to individuals with ASD and their families through access to information and resources, coordination of services and implementation of evidence-based practices.
To set the stage for council members to serve staggered four-year terms in the future, the first members will serve for either two, three or four years. Fuqua was appointed to a four-year term.
Fuqua has been involved in numerous aspects of his department's research and training efforts related to autism. He and several students from WMU's behavior analysis graduate program were invited to attend an April 18 bill signing in Lansing, Mich., for legislation mandating that insurers cover autism treatment. The students had helped convince state lawmakers during a March subcommittee hearing to pass the bill.
The new law will go into effect Oct. 1, requiring insurance companies to pay for ASD diagnoses and treatment for children up to age 18. It does not compel autism coverage by self-funded insurance plans, which are regulated by federal laws, but does establish an incentive program to encourage employers with self-funded insurance plans to adopt autism coverage.
Fuqua says that he hopes the new legislation translates into WMU ramping up training capabilities, especially once the Great Lakes Center for Autism Treatment and Research is completed in nearby Portage, Mich., this month. The Department of Psychology is collaborating with Residential Opportunities Inc. to establish the center, which will focus on evidence-based practices. Residential Opportunities Inc. will run, develop and manage the physical facility, and WMU will integrate practicum students and provide consultation services.
A related initiative that has come to fruition after months of work is the addition of an autism specialization to the Master Teacher endorsement offered with the Master of Arts in Special Education program, which was approved by the WMU Board of Trustees just one day after the April bill signing for Michigan's new autism-related insurance law.
R. Wayne Fuqua
Fuqua is a professor of psychology and a member of WMU's applied behavior analysis and clinical faculties. In addition to chairing the psychology department, he also directs the University's Behavioral Medicine Laboratory. Fuqua's research interests include behavior therapy, behavioral medicine, behavioral research methodology and mental retardation. Of particular interest is his research on AIDS prevention and stress-related disorders. He earned bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Florida.