(NEW YORK, NY – December 6, 2006) –Leadership of Autism Speaks and Cure Autism Now, nonprofit organizations dedicated to increasing awareness of autism and raising money to fund autism research, today applauded the passage in the United States House of Representatives of the Combating Autism Act (S. 843). The bill authorizes nearly 1 billion dollars over the next five years to combat autism through research, screening, early detection and early intervention. The new legislation will increase federal spending on autism by at least 50 percent. It includes provisions relating to the diagnosis and treatment of persons with autism spectrum disorders, and expands and intensifies biomedical research on autism, including an essential focus on possible environmental causes. Autism is now diagnosed in 1 in 166 children according to the Centers for Disease Control.
“This bill is a federal declaration of war on the epidemic of autism,” said Jon Shestack, co-founder of Cure Autism Now. “It creates a congressionally mandated roadmap for a federal assault on autism, including requirements for strategic planning, budget transparency, Congressional oversight, and a substantial role for parents of children with autism in the federal decision-making process.”
“By passing this landmark single-disease legislation, the House has recognized the daily plight of the thousands of families struggling every day with autism, and has once and for all acknowledged autism as a national healthcare crisis,” said Bob Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks and chairman and CEO of NBC Universal. “We now must get the bill to the President's desk as soon as possible.”
The Senate bill was sponsored by Senators Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Christopher Dodd (D-CT). The House version was brought to the House floor by Congressman Joe Barton (R-TX), Chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. A companion bill was originally introduced in the House of Representatives by Congresswomen Mary Bono (R-CA) and Diana DeGette (D-CO). The bill has the support of all major autism advocacy groups.
The bill was originally passed in the Senate in August 2006. The House version differs slightly from the Senate version, directing funds for research to the Secretary of Health and Human Services, rather than directly to the National Institutes of Health. Senate passage of the revised bill is expected swiftly.
Autism is a complex brain disorder that inhibits a person's ability to communicate and develop social relationships, and is often accompanied by extreme behavioral challenges. autism spectrum disorders are diagnosed in one in 166 children in the United States, affecting four times as many boys as girls. The diagnosis of autism has increased tenfold in the last decade. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have called autism a national public health crisis whose cause and cure remain unknown.
ABOUT AUTISM SPEAKS AND CURE AUTISM NOW
Autism Speaks and Cure Autism Now are dedicated to increasing awareness of the growing autism epidemic and to raising money to fund scientists who are searching for a cure. Cure Autism Now was founded in 1995 by Jonathan Shestack and Portia Iversen, parents of a child with autism. Autism Speaks was founded in February 2005 by Suzanne and Bob Wright, grandparents of a child with autism. Bob Wright is Vice Chairman and Executive Officer, General Electric, and Chairman and CEO, NBC Universal. Autism Speaks and Cure Autism Now (CAN) recently announced plans to combine operations, bringing together the two leading organizations dedicated to accelerating and funding biomedical research into the causes, prevention, treatments and cure for autism spectrum disorders; to increasing awareness of the nation's fastest-growing developmental disorder; and to advocating for the needs of affected families. Together the organizations have awarded autism research grants valued at more than 80 million dollars. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit www.autismspeaks.org. To learn more about Cure Autism Now, please visit www.cureautismnow.org.