HHS Report to Congress: How Federal Funds For Autism Are Spent

WASHINGTON, DC (February 28, 2014) -- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has reported to Congress on how funding dedicated to autism research and services under the Combating Autism Act (CAA) has been allocated and the progress that has been achieved under the law. 

"Since the enactment of the Combating Autism Act in 2006, and its reauthorization under the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act of 2011, federal agencies, in partnership with the community, have made significant strides in addressing many of the pressing needs of individuals and families affected by autism spectrum disorder," HHS reported.

The 2011 law dedicated $231 million a year in federal funding for autism research and services through September of this year to HHS, allocated primarily to the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Health Resources and Services Administration.

"Autism Speaks is actively working with our champions in Congress to reauthorize the CAA before September 30, and we will again demand this accountability over how federal dollars are spent on autism activities," said Liz Feld, president of Autism Speaks. "Progress has been gained in our understanding and treatment of autism, but much more needs to be done. The law should continue to provide structure and transparency for the most efficient and effective use of federal dollars.

"Autism Speaks has provided nearly $200 million for autism research and is funding breakthrough science that can make a difference for our community," she said, "but autism is an issue that covers the lifespan and we need a national strategy now to meet the employment, housing and community integration needs of all those affected.

"But we can't do this alone. We need a strong federal partner to address what is a national epidemic."

Among the advances cited by HHS between 2010 and 2013 were:

  • the new prevalence estimate of 1 in 88 children, along with a finding that more children are being diagnosed by age 3, creating critical opportunities for early intervention
  • expanded outreach to underserved populations to access diagnoses
  • new findings on risk factors, including environmental risk factors such as nutrients, air pollutants, pesticides, and paternal age
  • studies of conditions that often co-occur with ASD, such as gastrointestinal disorders, sleep disruptions, and epilepsy, are contributing to intervention strategies 
  • efforts to develop and evaluate educational interventions, as well as provide guidance for schools on how to make school environments safe and conducive to learning for students with disabilities

"While the collaborative efforts of federal and state agencies and community partners have resulted in many research advances and improvements in services over the past seven years, all acknowledge the growing needs of the community and the work that remains to be done," HHS concluded. "Continued collaborative efforts between the public and private sectors will be essential to drive the innovations that will lead to improved identification, interventions, services, and policies that will enhance the lives of people with ASD and their families."