Congressmen Chris Smith and Mike Doyle, the co-chairmen of the congressional caucus aimed at helping autistic individuals, today introduced a package of bills designed to reauthorize the nation’s landmark program for autism surveillance, research, education, awareness and intervention; to authorize new service programs; and to establish a national autism initiative.
“These bills offer a comprehensive approach to tackling this epidemic,” said Smith, whose own state of New Jersey is believed to have the highest rate of autism in the country. “We must remain committed in all areas, including research, federal policy and patient services so that all families affected by an ASD or other developmental disability can improve their lives with the latest treatments and have hope for a better future.”
Smith and Doyle, co-chairs of the bipartisan Coalition on Autism Research and Education (CARE), introduced H.R. 2005, “The Combating Autism Reauthorization Act,” HR 2006, “The National Autism Spectrum Disorders Initiative Act,” and H.R. 2007, “The Autism Spectrum Disorders Services Act.”
“I’m pleased to join my Autism Caucus co-chair Congressman Smith and our colleagues in the Senate introducing legislation today to reauthorize the Combating Autism Act and dramatically increase services for both children and adults with autism,” Doyle said. “The provisions that we passed nearly five years ago have made big differences in the lives of thousands of autistic Americans and their families. The Combating Autism Act’s research on the federal level has spurred innovation and growth in the private sector, giving individuals the opportunity to take greater advantage of better services throughout our communities as we strive to understand autism.”
The new legislation is summarized as follows:
- H.R. 2005 – “Combating Autism Reauthorization Act” to reauthorize the Combating Autism Act (CAA) of 2006. The reauthorization of CAA would be for an additional three years, through September 30, 2014.
- H.R. 2006 – “National Autism Spectrum Disorders Initiative Act” which designates the Secretary of U.S. Health and Human Services Department as head of the national autism effort, and authorizes the Secretary to approve a strategic plan developed by the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), in consultation with the National Institute for Health (NIH), and to accordingly allocate funding to NIH agencies, as well as plan and evaluate NIH-conducted or supported autism research.
- H.R. 2007 – “Autism Spectrum Disorders Services Act,” which broadens the existing Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee by expanding public representation and by making services to individuals with autism a major focus. Establishes a planning and demonstration grant program for services to children, transitioning youth, adults, and individuals of any age who may be at risk of injury, authorizes grants for protection and advocacy systems, and creates a national training initiative to better equip teachers and autism services providers.
CARE has consistently worked to increase federal funding for autism initiatives. Funding for autism programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has increased from less than $300,000 in 1995 to $22.1 million in 2011. During that same period autism funding at the National Institutes of Health increased from $10.5 million in 1995 to an estimated $160 million in 2011.
Smith’s Autism Statistics, Surveillance, Research and Epidemiology Act (Title I, P.L. 106-310) recently marked its own 10th anniversary. The law authorized grants and contracts for the collection, analysis, and reporting of data on autism and pervasive developmental disabilities, and established regional centers of excellence in autism surveillance and epidemiology.
In January 2011, a report required by the CAA, cosponsored by Smith and Doyle, described federal action undertaken since enactment of the CAA –mostly in the areas of research and services. The report describes autism-related research and service activities carried out by the federal government since enactment of the Combating Autism Act four years ago. It was released by the Dept. of Health and Human Services and the NIH.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one out of every 110 children (1 of 70 boys) in the United States has an autism spectrum disorder. Currently, approximately 1.5 million individuals in the US are on the autism spectrum. The range and severity of symptoms of autism vary from case to case, but symptoms often include difficulties in communicating and interacting with other individuals and exhibiting repetitive behaviors and intense interests in specific subjects.