Bill to Reauthorize Landmark Autism Law Introduced in House

February 7, 2019
Press Release
WASHINGTON, DC — Today, U.S. Representatives Mike Doyle (D-PA) and Chris Smith (R-NJ) introduced bipartisan legislation in the House to reauthorize federal programs and activities that help individuals with Autism and their families.
This bill, the Autism CARES Act of 2019 (HR 1058), is supported by a broad coalition of autism and disability advocate organizations, including Autism Speaks, Autism Society of America, Association of University Centers on Disabilities, American Academy of Pediatrics, and Autism NJ. A companion bill will be introduced in the Senate by Sens. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Mike Enzi (R-WY).
“Our new legislation will reauthorize vital federal research on earlier interventions for children with autism and expands funding for critical research, education, housing, and other programs that assist the countless children and adults on the spectrum, and their families,” Smith said. “The bill will also help ensure that the estimated 50,000 persons with autism each year who ‘age out’ of critical assistance programs and enter adulthood are supported, as many individuals and communities are unprepared for this transition.” 
“We’ve made significant progress over the last 20 years, but we are still far behind where we would like to be – and where individuals and families need us to be,” Doyle said. “The legislation we’re introducing today reauthorizes the federal government’s existing efforts, but it also increases and expands those efforts to cover underserved areas and ensure that they address individuals’ needs throughout their lives. We must continue this critical work, and I look forward to working with colleagues and stakeholders to move this bill through the legislative process.”
The Autism CARES Act of 2019 is a reauthorization of Smith and Doyle’s Autism CARES Act of 2014 (P.L. 113-157). 
HR 1058 would authorize over $1 billion in funding for programs at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) over five years. At CDC, the funding would go to developmental disability surveillance and research; at HRSA, the funding would cover education, early detection and intervention; at NIH, the funding would cover the expansion and coordination of autism-related activities.
Among other actions, the legislation:
• Requires HHS to report to Congress on the progress of activities related to autism and other developmental disabilities, and the health and well-being of individuals on the autism spectrum. 
• Directs NIH to conduct research targeted at improving outcomes and detection for persons with autism of all ages. 
• Directs HRSA to prioritize grants for developmental-behavioral pediatricians in medically-underserved areas. 
• Amends sections of the Public Health Service Act (PHSA) to reflect the need for research, surveillance, education, detection, and intervention for individuals with autism spectrum disorder of all ages, not just children.

Autism and disability advocate organizations support the legislation.

“AUCD is grateful to the bipartisan bicameral champions of the Autism CARES legislation for recognizing the critical value of the interdisciplinary training, research, and other activities supported by the bill.  We look forward to a speedy reauthorization and continued progress in serving autistic individuals and their families,” stated Andy Imparato, Executive Director of the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD).

“The bipartisan bill introduced on February 7 will reauthorize the law for five years (through 2024); further expand the mission to include individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities across the lifespan; expand the interagency autism coordinating committee (IACC) to include agencies that provide services and supports to individuals in the community; and authorizes a report to research ways to increase their health and well-being,” stated Scott Badesch, Executive Director and CEO of the Autism Society of America. “The Autism Society of America, the nation’s largest and oldest grassroots organization representing people with autism across the lifespan, strongly supports this bill.”
“For decades, Congressman Smith has been a champion of the autism community who devotes time and energy to listen to families and professionals and advance legislation that will improve their lives. His thoughtful approach to the challenges our community faces is reflected in this newly introduced legislation to reauthorize the Autism CARES Act,” noted Dr. Suzanne Buchanan, Autism New Jersey’s Executive Director. “This reauthorization will provide vital federal support to continue the efforts to monitor prevalence, train healthcare professionals, promote collaboration among federal agencies, and address individuals’ and families’ challenges across the lifespan that emphasizes access to services and quality of life into adulthood.”

“On behalf of the millions of people with autism and their families, Autism Speaks celebrates the introduction of the Autism CARES Act of 2019,” said Autism Speaks President and CEO Angela Geiger. “Autism CARES is the foundation of the federal government’s efforts around autism. We ask Congress to act expeditiously on this legislation.”

“Reauthorizing the Autism CARES Act is a needed step to advance research in early detection, intervention and understanding of autism spectrum disorders. Children with autism have unique needs that don’t stop when they become adults. The bill addresses this continuation of care by encouraging research and services across the lifespan, and by providing support for training more developmental behavioral pediatricians, with a particular focus on training providers in under-served areas. The American Academy of Pediatrics thanks Representatives Smith and Doyle and Senators Menendez and Enzi for their commitment to this important issue and looks forward to working with Congress to ensure the bill becomes law,” stated Kyle Yasuda, MD, FAAP, President of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).