Senate passes Lawson bill to make pediatric
autoimmune protections permanent


            STATE HOUSE – The Senate today passed a bill sponsored by Sen. Valarie Lawson to make permanent a pilot program passed last year that requires insurance coverage for treatment of pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric syndrome.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, children may be diagnosed with pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections (PANDAS) when obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), tic disorder or both suddenly appear following a streptococcal (strep) infection, such as strep throat or scarlet fever.  The symptoms are usually dramatic, happen “overnight and out of the blue,” and can include motor or vocal tics or both and obsessions, compulsions or both. In addition to these symptoms, children may become moody or irritable, experience anxiety attacks, or show concerns about separating from parents or loved ones.

Matthew, an East Bay resident, knows firsthand the impact of childhood psychiatric disorders and struggled for years to find proper treatment.

“OCD does more than try to occupy every aspect of your life; its relentless nature also requires continued attention, and, with it, medical expenses,” he said. “A family should not have to make financial sacrifices because their child developed OCD or another PANDAS through a respiratory infection.”

Matthew, who asked only his first name be used, developed OCD as a child and wonders what opportunities would be closed off to him if his family could not have afforded to pay for treatment.

In 2022, the General Assembly passed and the governor signed legislation (2022-S 2203B, 2022-H 7503Baa) to require insurance coverage for the treatment of pediatric autoimmune neuropsychiatric disorders associated with streptococcal infections and pediatric acute onset neuropsychiatric syndrome. This requirement, however, is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2025. Senator Lawson’s legislation (2023 S-0024) would make it permanent.

The bill now heads to the House where Rep. Matthew S. Dawson (D- Dist. 65, East Providence) has introduced companion legislation (2023-H 5256)

“We have already seen this pilot program work. It’s time to make it permanent so families have that peace of mind,” Senator Lawson said. “The stress and uncertainty that arises with PANDAS can be extremely challenging for children and their families. We need to do our part to support them.”