Autism Speaks Launches Richmond/Harrisonburg Radio Ad Campaign Urging Rep. Cantor to Continue His Support of Essential Autism Bill

NEW YORK, N.Y. (September 7, 2011) – Autism Speaks, the nation’s largest autism science and advocacy organization, today launched a major radio advertising campaign in central Virginia urging House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) to support the renewal of the landmark 2006 Combating Autism Act before critical provisions expire September 30.

Leader Cantor, whose 7th Congressional District extends from Richmond north to the Shenandoah Valley, was a cosponsor of the 2006 act and is one of the 113 House members of the Coalition for Autism Research and Education. Autism Speaks is urging Congressman Cantor, in his role as House Majority Leader, to help gain passage of the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act of 2011 (CARA), which would continue essential autism research and treatment for another three years at current funding levels.

“Majority Leader Cantor has stood for the autism community in Congress and joined with Virginia families at Walk Now for Autism Speaks events,” said Peter Bell, Autism Speaks executive vice president of programs and services. “But his support now has never been more critical as we fight for passage of CARA before September 30. We urge Congressman Cantor to join the growing bipartisan coalition, including other strong fiscal conservatives, that supports CARA, which continues critical research funding without adding to the U.S. debt.”

The text of the radio ad is here. The audio can be heard here.

The CARA bill, HR.2005, was originally sponsored in the House by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) and has strong bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (HELP) is scheduled to take up the CARA, S.1094, tomorrow. The Senate supporters of S.1094 include the sponsors, Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mike Enzi (R-WY), as well as fiscal conservatives such as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).

Autism is the fast growing developmental disability in the United States, with 1 in 110 children – and 1 in 70 boys – now diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, according to the national Centers for Disease Control. Autism costs the nation $35 billion a year in special education and social services costs, yet in 2010 received 0.6 percent of the research funding allocated by the National Institutes of Health.

The 2006 Combating Autism Act required the federal government to develop a strategic plan to expand and better coordinate the nation’s support for persons with autism and their families. Important research findings have resulted and critical studies are underway. Promising new interventions with children with autism are helping them lead more independent lives, thereby reducing the need for publicly funded special education and social services.

The 2006 law established autism as a national health priority and increased research funding, leading to significant advances in understanding autism. CARA would continue federal funding at current levels – $693 million over the next three years – which would be dedicated exclusively for autism-related work by the National Institute of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other federal agencies. President Obama has promised to sign a reauthorization bill this year.