Identifying opportunities for improvement is Mark Cappis’ expertise. For 32 years, he has worked in accounting, consulting, and tax prep services to provide Great Falls businesses with the knowledge and tools to improve their bottom line. Concurrently, he has given his time and talents to improve his community as well.
think it’s important for people to invest in their communities,” he says. “If you make the community better, it makes your business better.”
A high tide raises all ships. The more welcoming a community is and the more it has to offer, the more people will want to spend their time and money there— which is better for everyone.
For these reasons (and because he feels it’s the right thing to do), Cappis serves as a board member for several local organizations. He is excited to report that one of those boards, the Alluvion Foundation, has made some exciting developments for area families and their children.
“The Alluvion Foundation is working on a Mobile Autism Clinic that will be able to provide therapeutic treatment in Great Falls and the surrounding area,” Cappis explains.
The clinic, a 30-foot bus with three rooms and health professionals aboard, will be able to make stops in Great Falls and rural communities, bringing autism- related pediatric services to the children that need them.
“It’s not a boxed diagnosis; it’s a spectrum. Everyone with autism is different,” says Cappis.
One in every 44 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with autism; however, due to a lack of access to critical resources, the number of children with autism spectrum disorder is likely even higher. In Montana, families may have difficulty receiving diagnosis and treatment for a child on the spectrum, simply because there are only two comprehensive autism evaluation centers in the state, at Missoula and Billings. It may not be within a family’s means to take time away from work and then travel more than 100 miles for these resources.
“Getting diagnosed with autism is not like going to the doctor for diabetes diagnosis. A child has to sit down with a team of experts for a full day,” explains Teresa Schreiner, Executive Director of the Alluvion Foundation. As a mother of two children on the spectrum, she understands firsthand how crucial these services are to central Montana families.
“Early intervention matters. The brain is most malleable at ages 0-3. Diagnosis and therapy at a young age can have long term benefits.”
While the child’s improved quality of life is the greatest benefit, another is the reduced cost of care for a child with autism. The average cost of care associated with autism is $60,000 a year, with the bulk of these expenses related to special services and lost wages due to increased demands on one or both parents.
Early intervention can help reduce the financial impact of caring for a child with autism, but what if a parent is already struggling financially? How are they to seek early treatment?
“Alluvion Health started in 1994, and in 2020, the Alluvion Foundation was started as a separate entity to better provide equity and access, filling the gaps in care that no one else is filling,” explains Schreiner. “The Mobile Autism Clinic is funded in such a way that we will be able to provide services at reduced rates reflective of the family’s
ability to pay.”
Conservatively, the Alluvion Foundation estimates it will take 18 months to fundraise and fabricate, putting the launch date for the Mobile Autism Clinic somewhere around April 2024.
The board is hopeful however that fundraising efforts will complete ahead of schedule and that supply chain issues will not impede the unit’s assembly.
“As a parent it will be nice to have an adaptable unit. They don’t have to leave work. The mobile clinic can pull right up to the child’s school,” says Schreiner. “This will also take up less time for the kids. They won’t have to be removed from learning and socializing for long periods because the treatment comes to them.”
“Having this will improve the lives of people who live here,” says Cappis.
And that’s a good investment.
For more information or to make a donation to the Mobile Autism Clinic, visit alluvionhealth.org or call (406) 231-6521.