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Center for people with autism-spectrum disorders opens in Phoenix

The press conference at the opening of the Autism Spectrum Disorder Center of Excellence in Phoenix. (Photo: KTAR News/Kathy Cline)

PHOENIX — A new center for people with autism-spectrum disorders has officially opened in northeast Phoenix.

The Autism Spectrum Disorder Center of Excellence is located at Greenway Road and 36th Street. State Representative Mark Cardenas (R, Dist 19) — who helped push for Medicaid eligibility expansion in Arizona — said he is very happy the project is now a reality.

“This center is the result of putting people before politics,” he said. “The funding for this center comes directly from Medicaid-expansion funds.”

The center is the result of a partnership between Mercy Care Plan and Mercy Maricopa Integrated Care.

Touchstone Health Services and Southwest Behavioral & Health Services and Southwest Human Development were picked as community providers to provide better access to care and an earlier diagnosis.

Touchstone CEO Bryan Davey said the company strives to be “able to serve the whole person – and the whole family … That is what the center is going to work to do every single day.”

Autism is a serious developmental disorder that affects the ability to communicate and interact. The condition affects one in 64 Arizonans in any given year and the symptoms can range from nearly-undetectable to severe.

The condition is incurable and affects people of all ages, economic and ethnic backgrounds.

Hispanic children will be a big focus at the new center. “Hispanic children are even more likely to be misdiagnosed, or diagnosed later in life,” said Lindsey Zeider, the special projects lead with Mercy Maricopa.

“The Center of Excellence will be the hub to provide an early diagnosis; advanced coordination of care; specialized services that drive holistic outcomes; family and member advocacy and support; and community education.”

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