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NIMH Head Warns Autism Research Grants Would ‘Terminate’ Without CARA

September 22, 2011

NEW YORK (September 22, 2011) – The head of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has advised Congress that a critical source of federal funding for autism education, and early detection and intervention programs will “terminate” if the 2006 Combating Autism Act (CAA) is not renewed by the end of September.

In a letter to the House Energy & Commerce Committee, NIMH Director Dr. Thomas Insel said, “Without reauthorization of the CAA, HRSA (the Health Resources and Services Administration) would have to terminate grants for training programs, intervention research, and State demonstration grants. HRSA might be able to fund these activities through a different authority, but this approach would require significant administrative work and burden, including on the part of existing grantees, that could cause interruption to current activities absent reauthorization.

“To fund these activities through a different mechanism,” he added, “could require some ongoing programs to be reduced.”

Under the CAA, HRSA funding for autism-related activities more than doubled between 2007 to 2010, from $20 million to $48 million.

Insel’s letter was in response to a request from Rep. Michael Doyle (D-PA) to clarify his earlier testimony to the committee about how federally funded autism research and other activities would be impacted if the law is not reauthorized by September 30. Doyle, an original sponsor of the CAA reauthorization bill, said in his request to Insel,

“I have heard since from key stakeholders that continuing many of the activities would be extremely difficult without the specific authorization from Congress to do so.”

Insel said, “Reauthorization of the CAA would enable currently authorized programs to continue uninterrupted.” He noted that President Obama has pledged to sign a reauthorization bill.

“The CAA has served to ensure that autism programs are prioritized and implemented in a coordinated manner across the federal agencies, with collaboration from private partners in many cases, and with the input and participation of the public,” Insel said. “This coordination and collaboration has accelerated the pace of autism research over the past five years, resulting in gains in knowledge about the disorder and new possibilities for early diagnosis and treatment. The (Obama) administration believes that reauthorization of the CAA is critical to maintaining continuity and would provide an important opportunity to continue building on the momentum of progress.”