COLUMBIA - Gov. Jay Nixon announced Friday morning the Thompson Center for Autism will be expanded with $5 million in state funding.
The Governor will formally present his budget proposal for fiscal year 2017 during his final State of the State address next week. He will talk about the progress Missouri has made and the work still left to do. Launched in 2005, the Thompson Center helps people in Missouri, people around the country and people worldwide who have autism and/or neurodevelopmental disorders.
"Here in Missouri, we believe that all children - including those with autism - deserve the opportunity to live up to their God-given potential," Nixon said. "The Thompson Center is a shining testament to our share values as Missourians and joined obligation we have to our most vulnerable citizens. Some folks didn't catch a fair break in life, but deserve the opportunity to live up to their individual God-given potential."
Nixon said thousands of people from around the nation and around the world seek help from the Thompson Center with a disorder that now is estimated to affect one in 68 children born in the United States.
"As more and more children diagnosed with autism, the demand for life changing services this center provides and others around our great state continues to grow," Nixon said.
The governor also announced $1 million will help launch an autism clinic at Truman State University and $500,000 will expand services at the Mercy Kids Autism Center in St. Louis and St. Charles Counties.
Miles Hinkle, a Columbia resident, is the father of two children, Blake, 13, and Jackson, 9. Blake Hinkle was diagnosed with autism around the age of 21 months. His father said the Thompson Center opened shortly after his son's diagnosis. Miles Hinkle has been volunteering and been involved since day one.
He said it's absolutely fantastic what's going to happen with the Thompson Center's expansion.
"The demand is there," Hinkle said. "The fact that you have the flagship, you know, the university who has one of the centers of excellence in the country is going to be absolutely amazing."
Hinkle said he's really excited in particular about the transitional programs the Thompson Center will have.
"You're about to have a tidal wave of kids like Blake who are 13, 14 years old who are going to be 18 or 21 pretty soon and they're going to want to become productive members of the community," Hinkle said. "I think that kind of career skills, job placement type program for people with autism will be fantastic."