Early Access to Care - AZ Program

Early Access to Care - AZ


Arizona has one of the highest rates of autism across the United States. One in 64 children living in the state has autism spectrum disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In addition, in order for children with autism to receive medically necessary services and interventions, Arizona’s Division of Developmental Disabilities of the Department of Economic Security (DDD) requires the diagnosis of autism to be determined only by a developmental pediatrician, licensed clinical psychologist or child psychiatrist.

Meanwhile, there are few developmental pediatricians in Arizona, and most are located within Maricopa County, forcing children who live elsewhere in the state to compete for appointments and delay early diagnosis. But thanks to grant funding and a vision created by Robin Blitz, MD, director of developmental pediatrics at Barrow Neurological Institute at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, Early Access to Care – AZ (EAC-AZ) seeks to remove these roadblocks by training physicians across the state in how to assess children for autism and provide them with a medical home.

Created in 2015, EAC – AZ is a program that trains medical providers around the state to diagnose and treat children with autism. The program provides training and support for regional teams across Arizona. Each team consists of a pediatrician, an Arizona Early Intervention Program provider and a school representative. Team members are trained in using tools and scales to screen for autism in children. After a provider completes the program, Dr. Blitz works to get the pediatricians’ diagnoses approved for DDD services, thus providing much-needed early access to medical intervention, therapies and school services to children living in the Phoenix area and across Arizona. The Board of Visitors, a charitable organization in Phoenix that supports the health care needs of women, children and the elderly, has provided financial support to the program.

“I am so encouraged and excited about the interest and dedication that our EAC – AZ pediatricians have demonstrated in participating in the trainings and with helping to provide high quality care to children with autism,” Dr. Blitz said. “Our hope is that EAC – AZ will change the landscape for children with autism and their families in Arizona, by providing earlier diagnosis and access to interventions and medical homes, resulting in better outcomes for our children and support for their families.”

The first teams began training in August 2015, and the second cohort of pediatricians began in January 2016. So far, EAC – AZ has trained 12 providers in the regions of Casa Grande, Flagstaff, Lake Havasu, Pinetop-Lakeside, Prescott Valley, Tucson, Yuma and Maricopa. The second cohort consists of 11 pediatricians in Maricopa County and one in Cottonwood. EAC – AZ is open to board-certified pediatricians across Arizona. The six-month training course for primary care providers consists of learning modules, independent readings, webinars, online case discussions and two in-person trainings at Phoenix Children’s.

For more information on participating in EAC-AZ, please contact the team.

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