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Camp for children with special needs struggles to find insurance coverage

For six weeks, kids along the autism spectrum or with attention or neurological disorders get to have the camp experience with counselors who understand them.

SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. — A camp for kids with special needs may have to close because they can't get anyone to insure them. Camp PEOTSI in Sandy Springs is the only one of its kind in the state.

Occupational therapists exclusively run the summer camp for children with attention and mood disorders, and for kids on the autism spectrum.

Nicole Cook said her 10-year-old son thrives there.

"He loves the counselors, he loves the adventure of it," Cook said.

For six weeks every summer, kids along the autism spectrum or with attention or neurological disorders get to have the camp experience with counselors who understand them.

"This camp works to connect these kids to themselves and to others through sensory experiences, and we have the tools to do it, and the education to do it. And it's important to us, to the kids, and their families," said Charlie Johnson, a pediatric occupational therapist who works as a camp counselor.

"We don't look for ways to send your kid home, we look for ways to help your kid learn through their challenges," he added.

He said families depend on this camp to support their kids and keep them safe. 

Director Clay White said he was astonished when the insurance company suddenly canceled their policy this year.

"We've never had a claim. We have never taken a kid to an ER. And this year we have been denied insurance and we can't figure out why," he said. 

They've applied to a number of other underwriters and each has told them the insurance exposure is unacceptable, but they haven't explained why. 

"If they don't like hiking, we'll stop hiking, if they don't like biking, we will stop biking. If they don't like art, we will stop doing art. But they never tell us what's unacceptable," White said.

The camp is supposed to open in 17 days, but if they don't have insurance, they can't run it. The families said it would be devastating to their kids. 

"It's one of the most important things a kid like mine needs to be happy and healthy and to thrive," Cook explained. 

White is working with the Georgia Insurance Commissioner's Office now to try to find coverage, but time is very rapidly running out.

    

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