A MetroWest lawmaker pushes for greater medical training
BOSTON – A MetroWest lawmaker wants to require more training for those working with developmentally disabled patients following a report found health car professionals don’t know enough about the best treatment for their conditions.
“We need to improve training for medical practitioners,” said Rep. Carolyn Dykema, D-Holliston, said after testifying before the Joint Committee on Public Health on Tuesday. “Disabled people need a much greater level of care and it is important to improve the recognition of their needs.”
Dykema has taken up a bill filed last year by former Rep. Peter J. Koutoujian, before he was named Middlesex County sheriff, that would require continuing education for doctors and licensed health care providers on the problems and treatments of the physically and mentally disabled.
Dykema said the additional training and education save the state money in the long run.
“Keeping people well is the most cost effective way to deal with health care. We need to have more health care professionals familiar with these issues,” said Dykema. “It is absolutely appropriate to consider their needs specifically, when it comes to health care.”
Mandy Nichols, healthcare policy director at The Arc of Massachusetts, for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities said the bill draws on a 2008 report findings by her group.
The report, called Left Out in the Cold Health Care Experiences of Adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in Massachusetts, said health care professionals and residential caregivers lack sufficient knowledge about caring
The study cited a lack of direct communication between health care professionals and patients and among the different providers and care systems. Also cited were lengthy waits for appointments, rushed treatments, and a shortage of health care professionals who accept public insurance, such as MassHealth.
“There is one in 110 children diagnosed with autism now,” said Maura Buckley, a mother of two children diagnosed with autism. “Doctors should think beyond diagnoses and meet the real families.”
Nichols estimated about 3 percent of the state’s population has intellectual and developmental disabilities, with 3000 patients receiving services through the state.
She said in an interview that the bill would benefit patients, health care professionals, and the state.
She noted the problem with children with developmental problems getting treatment with their pediatricians long after they become adults who then wind up getting expensive emergency room treatment because they get the wrong kind of care.
“In the long run it would save the state money,” she said.
Dykema expects the bill to be voted on within the next two months.