MCLEAN, Va. — November 15, 2023 — Positive Development, the leading provider of developmental care for neurodivergent children, is excited to announce the grand opening of a brand-new facility dedicated to serving families in southwestern Illinois. This initiative was made possible through the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services (HFS) and Meridian Health Plan of Illinois Inc.’s (Meridian), a wholly owned subsidiary of Centene Corporation, Pay for Performance (P4P) reinvestment program, which awarded a $1.5 million grant to expand capacity for providing essential services to children on the autism spectrum in the East St. Louis metropolitan area and surrounding counties.
“This partnership is a testament to the power of collaboration among payers, providers and the State of Illinois and our shared commitment to make an impact in an area of great need,” said Mike Suiters, CEO of Positive Development. “We’re humbled by Meridian’s substantial investment in Positive Development and our method of developmental care. Aligned to HFS’s pillars of equity and child behavioral health, this grant from Meridian is helping us enhance the lives of neurodivergent children and their families.”
“Meridian shares the vision of HFS and Positive Development to expand access to care and improve health outcomes for neurodivergent children in underserved areas of Illinois,” said Cristal Gary, Plan President and CEO for Meridian. “With more than 1,400 members seeking care for neurodivergent family members, we are thrilled to be able to contribute to Positive Development’s work and will continue to work together to expand developmental services to these children and their families.”
State Policy Changes for Developmental Care
According to the CDC, the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has increased to one in 36 among 8-year-olds in 2023, which is up from one in 44 among 8-year-olds in 2021. Positive Development's partnership with Meridian Health Plan of Illinois has helped play a pivotal role in the shaping of state policy changes that directly benefit neurodiverse children in the second largest urban area of Illinois.
Both organizations worked alongside SIHF Healthcare, a federally qualified health center with over 30 locations across southern Illinois, to submit a crucial Medicaid State Plan Amendment. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) acknowledged the significance of this amendment by broadening the benefit to include Developmental Care as a covered service.
This important milestone signaled a meaningful shift in policy that positively impacts the neurodiverse community. “This policy change and capacity expansion is instrumental in ensuring that neurodiverse children receive the comprehensive care they deserve, marking a critical step forward in improving their quality of life and well-being,” added Suiters.
Addressing a Growing Need
While state Medicaid programs are continuing to expand autism coverage to address health equity concerns, access remains an enormous challenge. Families often face lengthy wait lists for diagnosis and therapy, which can stretch up to a year or more.
“There’s a considerable shortage of developmental pediatricians in our area,” said Brandy Holthaus, Family Nurse Practitioner and Regional Clinical Lead at SIHF Healthcare in Belleville. “Currently, we refer families out of state, with wait times for appointments sometimes extending to 18 months or more. Having an in-network provider that caters to Medicaid beneficiaries is a win for everybody.”
Positive Development, Meridian and SIHF are committed to expanding developmental care for neurodiverse children throughout the state of Illinois.
“Our primary goal is to improve access to care and offer more developmental service options for the community. We’re eager to partner with health plans and payers to extend our services to underserved areas with significant needs," said Lauren Svymbersky, Clinical Director and Speech Therapist for Positive Development’s new southwestern Illinois location.
About Positive Development
Since 2020, our company has been on a mission to deliver developmental care to as many neurodivergent children and families as possible. Our team represents dedicated parents, devoted family members, impassioned self-advocates, and pioneering clinicians. Together, we’ve experienced the transformative power of high-quality developmental care firsthand – personally, professionally, and scientifically. As the largest provider of developmental care in the country, Positive Development is committed to broadening access to this life-changing approach while establishing best practices in clinical support. Our dedication to outcomes measurement and evaluation will be of benefit to all families we serve.
About Meridian Health Plan of Illinois, Inc.
Meridian Health Plan of Illinois, Inc. and its family of plans provide government-sponsored managed care services to families, children, seniors, and individuals with complex medical needs. This includes Meridian's Medicaid and Medicaid-Medicare plans, and YouthCare HealthChoice Illinois. YouthCare is a specialized program designed to address the healthcare needs of Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) youth in out-of-home placement and former foster youth. Meridian connects members to care and offers comprehensive services to support lifelong health and wellness. Meridian is a wholly owned subsidiary of Centene Corporation, a leading healthcare enterprise committed to helping people live healthier lives. Learn more at ILmeridian.com.
About SIHF Healthcare
SIHF Healthcare operates a network of over 30 health centers across 12 Illinois counties with 160 medical providers who deliver comprehensive healthcare services including: adult, family, women’s health, pediatrics, dental services for children, behavioral health, and population health services. As one of the largest Federally Qualified Health Center networks in the State of Illinois, SIHF Healthcare is devoted to leading individuals and communities to their healthiest lifestyle regardless of their ability to pay. For more information or to find the nearest provider, visit www.sihf.org.