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Sunday, May 15, 2005

Autism Legislation... show your support!

As most of you know, Autism is a cause that affects my family. Please take a moment to read the following information about new Autism legislation. Contact your Senator to make a difference. Thank you!

Combating Autism Act of 2005 (S.843)

Combating Autism Act of 2005 (S.843) would commit an unprecedented $860 million in federal funds to combat autism through research, screening, intervention and education efforts, in effect doubling the current National Institutes of Health's current autism funding level.

This legislation was drafted by parents of children with autism and the organizations which advocate on their behalf, and the offices of our Congressional sponsors, Senators Santorum and Dodd. The Combating Autism Act of 2005 builds on the provisions of the Children's Health Act of 2000 and would authorize $860 million over five years to combat autism through research, screening, intervention and education. It also reauthorizes the National Institutes of Health Centers of Excellence Program in autism originally created in 2000, doubling the number of authorized centers.

With the introduction of this new legislation, Senators Santorum and Dodd propose an attack on autism, raising the federal government's commitment to an unprecedented level. The proposed legislation will cut across federal agency lines to more effectively fund autism research and expand autism treatment and early diagnosis.

Cure Autism Now chapter leaders, including Karen Beveridge, Beth Eisman, Doug Fischer, Maureen Reilly, and Stuart Spielman, joined co-founder Jonathan Shestack and CEO Peter Bell in support of the Combating Autism Act of 2005. Prisca Chen Marvin, board chair of NAAR, Bob and Suzanne Wright, co-founders of Autism Speaks and Lee Grossman, president and CEO of the Autism Society of America, also conveyed their strong support for the new Senate bill at the press meeting.

The Combating Autism Act of 2005 would give the director of NIH the authority to expand collaborative research for autism and autism-support programs that will have a striking impact on the autism community. The legislation requires the development and oversight of a strategic plan and budget for research on autism, based upon recommendations contained in the existing Autism Research Roadmap and Matrix of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee.
The proposed Act would provide grant programs for every state to develop autism screening and early diagnosis and intervention programs--perhaps the most important thing that could happen, short of a cure.

Specifically, the “Combating Autism Act of 2005” calls for the following:

  • Authorizes the Director of the NIH to create an “Autism Czar” to coordinate NIH based-research, develop and oversee budget implementation. The proposed legislation codifies existing programs at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Collaborative Programs of Excellence in Autism, increasing the Centers of Excellence on Autism from eight to ten.
  • The proposed legislation also calls for the National Institute on Environmental Health Sciences to create three Centers of Excellence on Environmental Health and Autism. Calls for the Health & Human Services (HHS) Secretary to provide a program of information and education on autism and its risk factors to health professionals and the general public. The legislation authorizes $10 million a year for the next 5 years for early identification and prompt referral for services and education for parents and requires an annual report to Congress.
  • Authorizes the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to commit $75 million a year for the next five years for grants for states to develop autism screening, diagnosis, and intervention programs and to create statewide screening systems to ensure that all children are screened for autism by the age of two.
  • Reauthorizes the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s (CDC) epidemiological surveillance program with respect to autism at $12 million a year for the next 5 years, and authorizes $25 million a year for the next five years for technical assistance and data management to states related to autism screening, diagnosis and intervention programs.
Autism is considered the fastest growing developmental disorder in the United States, occurring in as many as 1 in every 166 births. Despite this strikingly high prevalence, autism research remains one of the lowest funded areas of medical research in both the public and private sector. Congress must intensify its commitment to increasing and enhancing the federal government’s contribution to autism research by passing this landmark legislation.
While we have made significant progress in recent years increasing autism research dollars at the federal level, much more must be done. Our government must rise to the challenge faced by an absolutely overwhelming number of our children. This legislation, S-843, is critical to our ability to continue advancing our search for answers for children and families today and for future generations.

How can you help?

You can help by contacting your home state Senators in Washington and ask them to co-sponsor the “Combating Autism Act of 2005” known as S-843. You can help make a difference right now.

1. eFax a letter to your US Senators - free service

2. Print your letter to use as script for telephone call

3. Telephone your US Senators

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