Working closely with Sen. Roy McDonald, R-Saratoga, Washburn was able to build a relationship with the public official. McDonald has two grandchildren, ages 5 and 7, who have been diagnosed with autism. He said people like Washburn are needed to bring attention to these issues with their level of emotion and energy.
"I admire people like Trish. They help these legislators out," he said. "She brings humanity to it [the issue]. She brings a human face and is no longer a statistic."
McDonald worked alongside Sen. Neil Breslin, D-Delmar, to advocate for The New York State Autism Insurance Bill (S. 7000b/A. 10372a), sponsored by Breslin and Assemblyman Joseph Morelle, D-Irondequoit.
McDonald said the bill is "critical for families who need financial support."
The bill, which has yet to be signed into law by the governor, would require individual accident and health insurance policies to provide coverage for screening, diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders.
Even with the work Washburn had put in with McDonald, she was not happy with the contents of the final bill.
Washburn said she would like to see the bill vetoed by Paterson.
"Part of me does support it, but I think it needs major changes," she said. "I don't know if it will help the way they're hoping it will help."
Michael Smith, a friend of Washburn's and board chairman and northeast regional director of Foundation for Autism Information and Research Inc. Autism Media, said lawmakers are being disingenuous when they tout the bill as helping out families with coverage.
"This was a horrendous piece of legislation that was just passed," Smith said. "I'm offended by McDonald saying, 'Well, we need to do something.'"
Smith said he is upset over language in the bill that requires four agencies, the Commissioner of the State Department of Health, the Superintendent of Health, the Office of Mental Health and the Office of Mental Retardation and