Kayleigh Norton, Applied Behavior Analysis therapist, reviews animals and colors with six-year-old Carl. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Dennis Sloan).

New York State has repealed an arcane law that had inadvertently restricted Board Certified Behavior Analysts from providing treatment for anyone other than people diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

BCBAs and Licensed Behavior Analysts are trained to reduce harmful behavior and teach new skills to people diagnosed with anything from Down syndrome to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. New York is one of 30 states that requires BCBAs to be licensed in addition to requiring them to pass the national Behavior Analyst Certification Board exams but the Empire State was alone in limiting BCBAs to helping only individuals with autism.

“Such services can also be valuable for other behavior disorders,” said state Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor), who cosponsored the bill since 2017 and called the restriction on BCBAs scope of practice arbitrary. “Services are always difficult to access on the East End. This legislation will expand the options for families in my region who are in need of these valuable services.”

The problem arose when the state passed a 2012 law requiring insurers to pay for treatment of services for people with autism. Lawmakers soon after passed an amendment that created the license for BCBAs and ensured behavior analysis is covered by insurance for the autistic. It wasn’t until later that experts realized that the law effectively limited BCBAs from helping anyone else in New York.

“It should not have been entangled with [the insurance law] the way it was,” Dana Reinecke, a Long Beach resident who is a past president of the New York State Association for Behavior Analysis, has said. The group blames a statewide shortage of BCBAs on the restriction.

New York has “the lowest number of behavior analysts per 100 individuals with autism in the Northeast and slow growth in new behavior analysts,” the group says on its website. “This is directly tied to the limitation on the scope of practice of behavior analysts in New York.”

The State Legislature passed the bill repealing the BCBA scope restriction in June and Gov. Kathy Hochul signed it into law on Dec. 30.

“Professions shouldn’t be limited by specific disorders,” said Assemblywoman Missy Miller (R-Atlantic Beach). 

Assemblywoman Michaelle Solages (D-Elmont) said she decided to cosponsor the bill to repeal the restriction after hearing from constituents, including those who work with people who have eating disorders and Alzheimer’s disease, who expressed concern that the law bars them from getting behavioral help.

“It’s like saying a chiropractor can only treat an ankle injury,” Solages previously told the Press.

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Timothy Bolger is the Editor in Chief of the Long Island Press who’s been working to uncover unreported stories since shortly after it launched in 2003. When he’s not editing, getting hassled by The Man or fielding cold calls to the newsroom, he covers crime, general interest and political news in addition to reporting longer, sometimes investigative features. He won’t be happy until everyone is as pissed off as he is about how screwed up Lawn Guyland is.