In a move to address the growing epidemic of autism in the United States, landmark legislation was recently introduced which would greatly expand the federal government's role and response to the developmental disorder. The Combating Autism Act of 2005(H.R. 2421),the House version of Senate Bill 843 which we last wrote to you about on April 21st, was introduced in the House on May 18th by Congresswoman Mary Bono (R-CA) and U.S. Congresswoman Diana DeGette (D-CO). The legislation would authorize $110 million annually over the next five years to combat autism through research, screening, intervention and education efforts.
"Autism is the fastest growing developmental disability in our nation," said Congresswoman Bono. "Fortunately, the medical community is responding by increasing their efforts to effectively diagnose, treat and cure this disorder. Currently, both the cause and cure are unknown, often leaving families with feelings of frustration and hopelessness. The goal of this legislation is to support the medical community by augmenting current federal efforts by reauthorizing federal funding and allowing for better coordination of the federal response to autism," added Bono.
"Right now, autism is a disease that leaves families with far too many questions and far too few answers. While the medical community has made important steps in addressing this disorder, there is still much more to be done," said Rep. DeGette. "That is why it is so critical that we put the full weight of the federal government's scientific resources behind efforts to develop better ways to diagnose, treat and hopefully cure autism.”
The Combating Autism Act of 2005 would provide grant programs for every state to develop autism screening, early diagnosis and intervention programs for children. The Act would additionally provide money for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) epidemiological surveillance programs. And, the legislation would re-authorize the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), established in the Children's Health Act of 2000, to coordinate all efforts within the Department of Health and Human Services concerning autism, including activities carried out through the National Institute of Health and the Centers for Disease Control.Companion legislation was introduced in the U.S. Senate under the same title by Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT).
"Unraveling the mysteries of autism demands a large, collaborative effort on many fronts," said Prisca Chen Marvin, board chair of the National Alliance for Autism Research (NAAR) and the mother of a child with autism. "This legislation is critical to our ability to continue advancing our search for answers -- for children and families today and for future generations."
Autism is considered the fastest growing developmental disorder in the United States, occurring in as many as 1 in every 166 births. Despite this strikingly high prevalence, autism research remains one of the lowest funded areas of medical research in both the public and private sector. Our government must rise to the challenge faced by an absolutely overwhelming number of our children.
Much appreciation goes to all the friends and families of the autism community who wrote their Senators about the importance of the Combating Autism Act of 2005, S-843, and we urge you to continue this effort. With the introduction of this bill to the House of Representatives, NAAR is asking for your support once again to write your local Representatives about the importance of the Combating Autism Act of 2005.