The Senate Labor Health and Human Services and Education Appropriation Committee today approved full funding for the Combating Autism Act as part of its fiscal 2008 spending bill. Specifically, the bill provides $53.5 million for programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Health Resources and Services Administration. This is an $18.5 million increase over last year's level, and fully funds the Combating Autism Act's recommendations for autism surveillance, early detection, education, awareness and intervention activities.
The Committee also took an important step toward ensuring that the National Institutes of Health follow the recommendations of and provide funding for the Autism Strategic Research Plan that will be developed by the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) . Today's Senate bill provides $1 million for creation and implementation of the IACC. The bill also requires the NIH to provide a report by July 1, 2008 on its implementation of the research-related provisions of the Combating Autism Act, including funding levels for research recommended by the IACC's strategic plan.
The bill will now go to the full Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration, and then on to the Senate floor. Following Senate approval, the bill will proceed to conference committee where it will be reconciled with the appropriations bill passed by the House of Representatives.
Specific autism provisions in the bill are as follows:
· $37 million for autism and other developmental disabilities initiatives at the Human Resources Services Administration (HRSA), compared to the Fiscal 2007 level of $20 million. This is the funding level authorized by the Combating Autism Act. These programs support autism surveillance, early detection, education and intervention.
· $16.5 million for autism programs at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). This represents a $1,407,000 increase over the fiscal 2007 level to continue CDC's surveillance and research programs, including the CADDRE and ADDM Network and the national awareness campaign. This is the funding level authorized by the Combating Autism Act.
· $1 million for the Office of the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services "for the Secretary to implement Section 399CC of the Public Health Services Act (as enacted in the Combating Autism Act, Public Law 109-416) related to creation and administration of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee."
In addition, there were two autism-specific items in the report language within the NIH section of the committee's report:
· Under the NIH's Office of the Director, language as follows: "The Committee requests that the Director report to the Committee by July 1, 2008, on progress made to implement the provisions of the Combating Act that are relevant to the NIH, including funding levels for relevant components of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee's strategic research plan”
· Under the National Institute on Environmental Health Sciences, language as follows: “The Committee remains strongly interested in possible environmental causes or triggers of autism. The Committee commends the NIEHS for convening an expert panel in May 2006 regarding thimerosal exposure in response to fiscal year 2006 report language. The report from the workshop titled “Thimerosal Exposure in Pediatric Vaccines” concluded that comparing the rates of autism in the Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) over the time period before, during and after the removal of thimerasol (sic) from most childhood vaccines would be “uninformative and potentially misleading”. The report also outlined three alternative studies that could address possible associations between thimerosal exposure and increased rates of autism. The Committee urges the NIEHS to evaluate the merit of conducting these alternate studies and provide an update in the fiscal year 2009 congressional budget justifications.”