Washington, DC – This evening, the U.S. House of Representatives passed bipartisan legislation introduced by US Representatives Mike Doyle (PA-14) and Chris Smith (NJ-4) that would reauthorize and improve federal programs for families touched by Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs).
HR 4631, the Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education and Support Act of 2014 (the “Autism CARES Act”), would authorize $260 million annually over five years for research into autism. It would also urge federal agencies to examine and anticipate needs for autistic children who are “aging out” of current programs and need different assistance as adults.
“We have made tremendous advances in understanding Autism Spectrum Disorders – but this progress will be lost if Congress allows these programs expire,” Congressman Doyle said earlier this evening on the House Floor. “That is why it’s so important that Congress pass common-sense, bipartisan, bicameral legislation like the bill before us today. With the prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders much higher than we thought just a few years ago, inaction is simply not an option.”
“Previous autism law including the Combating Autism Act of 2011 made critical investments—continued by this bill—that are working to determine the causes of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), identify autistic children as early as possible to begin treatment, raise critical awareness and develop new therapies and effective services,” said Smith who, along with the bill’s Democrat cosponsor Rep. Mike Doyle, founded and co-chairs the bipartisan Coalition on Autism Research and Education (C.A.R.E.). “Mike Doyle has been a great partner on this bill and on all autism spectrum disorder issues in Congress.”
The CDC’s most recent data shows a continued increase in autism prevalence rates: 1 in every 68 American children (1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls). In New Jersey, 1 in every 45 children has ASD, the highest rate in the CDC study.
The Autism CARES Act would: reauthorize autism research for five years, including $22 million for the Developmental Disabilities Surveillance and Research Program at the CDC; $48 million for Autism Education, Early Detection, and Intervention, and; $190 million for hundreds of Research Grants at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), annually; add key reforms to IACC to ensure coordination is maximized and the taxpayers’ dollars are spent efficiently; and increase accountability by requiring HHS to designate an individual charged with implementing IACC’s annual strategic plan and report to Congress how they are doing so.
The Autism CARES Act would also direct the Department of Health and Human Services to report back to Congress on the best practices for transitioning adolescents with ASDs to adulthood. Along with another report by the GAO and the usual progress reports required by the Combating Autism Act and the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act, this new information would facilitate the government’s efforts to help individuals with ASD make the transition from a school-based support system to adulthood by studying their demographics and needs and encouraging independent living, equal opportunity, full participation, and economic self-sufficiency.
“We need to do a better job of preparing children with ASD for adulthood and provide the help and services they need to reach their full potential,” said Smith. “The Autism CARES Act tasks multiple federal agencies to study and report back to Congress on the special needs of autistic young adults and transitioning youth. In light of the severity of the aging out crisis, we must do more and fast and ensure we are providing a comprehensive and thorough review of available services—and those we need to create.”
The Autism CARES Act was cosponsored by a bipartisan group of 80 Representatives, and it is supported by Autism Speaks, the Autism Society, the Association of University Centers on Disabilities, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Companion legislation (S 2449) has been introduced in the Senate by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Michael Enzi (R-WY).