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June 7, 2016Alerts

U.S. District Court Approves Class Action Settlement.

Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder to Receive Needed Applied Behavioral Analysis Services.


Tuesday, June 07, 2016


Rachel Mann, Staff Attorney
(215) 238-8070, ext. 205

Kelly Darr, Legal Director
(215) 238-8070, ext. 221

Harrisburg, PA – Today, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania issued an Order approving the final Settlement Agreement in Sonny O. et al v. Dallas.  The Order follows a Fairness Hearing held yesterday and settles a federal class action lawsuit filed against the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) by three Medical Assistance-enrolled children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) who had been unable obtain a much-needed treatment called Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA). They represented a class of similarly situated children who had requested ABA from DHS’s behavioral health system.

ABA is an evidence based treatment that helps children with ASD develop the basic skills (social, behavioral, communicative, self-help, and daily living) that they need to function effectively at home and in the community.  The lawsuit alleged that DHS failed to provide the full scope of ABA, focusing only on correcting inappropriate behaviors and not addressing skill deficits, used inappropriate medical necessity guidelines, failed to offer providers who had training in ABA, and failed to allow many qualified ABA providers to enroll in the Medical Assistance program, leaving children without adequate access to this critical evidenced based service.

The Settlement requires DHS to develop new medical necessity guidelines for ABA, promulgate regulations in the summer of 2017 defining the qualifications required of ABA practitioners, require behavioral health managed care organizations to identify practitioners who are currently qualified to provide ABA and seek out-of-network providers if they do not currently have the capacity to provide ABA, allow all qualified ABA providers to enroll in the Medical Assistance program, develop a bulletin explaining that ABA can be used to address skill building for activities of daily living, as well as appoint a person within DHS to receive complaints from families who feel they are not receiving medically necessary ABA based on the terms of the settlement.

“If implemented properly,” said Rachel Mann, attorney for the class, “thousands of Pennsylvania children with Autism Spectrum Disorder will have real access to the evidence based treatment of Applied Behavioral Analysis.”

A copy of the Settlement Agreement can be found at

The Disability Rights Pennsylvania (DRP) is the statewide protection and advocacy agency for Pennsylvanians with disabilities.  DRP protects and advocates for the rights of people with disabilities so that they may live the lives they choose, free from abuse, neglect, discrimination, and segregation.