On March 23, 2018, the annual appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2018 was signed into law marking some significant wins for the autism community. The spending package includes what has been called an unprecedented increase to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget as well as the legislative addition of Kevin & Avonte's Law.
Regarding research funding, funding for the National Institutes of Health was increased by 9% to $37.08 billion dollars. This includes an increase of $109,844,000 to the National Institute of Mental Health. This increase will allow more funding to be spent on needed research for autism and many other disorders. Importantly, the accompanying budget report encourages the NIH to follow the federal Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee’s latest strategic plan for autism research, which recommends a doubling of the autism research budget by 2020. The increased funds and guidance from Congress are pivotal steps in this direction. Autism Speaks joins with many others in commending the leadership of the Subcommittee on Appropriations for Health and Human Services: Chairmen Tom Cole (R-OK) and Roy Blunt (R-MO), and Ranking Members Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Patty Murray (D-WA).
There were several other welcomed funding advancements for the autism community including:
The budget for autism at the Health Resources and Services Administration was increased from $2,000,000 to $49,099,000.
The budget for autism at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention remained stable at $23,100,000.
The budget for autism research under the Department of Defense's Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program remained stable at $7,500,000.
There were also new funding developments for section 811 housing vouchers.
The omnibus legislation also included the final passage of Kevin and Avonte’s Law. Named in honor of Kevin Wills and Avonte Oquendo, two boys who lost their lives when they wandered and drowned, Kevin and Avonte’s Law aims to safeguard children with autism or other developmental disabilities who may wander from their caregivers. It amends the Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, reauthorized the Missing Alzheimer's Disease Patient Alert Program, and promotes initiatives that will reduce the risk of injury or death relating to wandering characteristics of some children with autism. Specifically, it allows Justice Department grants to be used by law enforcement agencies and non-profits to facilitate training and emergency protocols for school personnel and community leaders; supply first responders with additional information and resources; and make locating technology programs available for individuals who wander.
Kevin and Avonte's Law was first introduced in May 2014, and Autism Speaks is grateful for the tireless efforts of Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Maxine Waters (D-CA) in ensuring the passage of this legislation.