The Combating Autism Reauthorization Act (CARA) has begun its legislative path.
Prime sponsor is Robert Menendez (D-NJ). Cosponsors are Scott Brown (R-MA), Richard Durbin (D-IL), and Mike Enzi (D-WY). The committtee is Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP).
The new bill reauthorizes the Combating Autism Act of 2006 (CAA), which has played a critical role in advancing autism research and treatment. The original CAA, set to sunset on September 30, 2011, expanded federal investment for autism research through NIH, increased services, diagnosis and treatment through HRSA, and enhanced surveillance and awareness efforts by the CDC. The CAA authorized nearly $1 billion in federal research spending over five years—increasing autism research spending by almost 50 percent. This research has led to improved understanding of the causes of autism and has helped us begin to develop new interventions. Additionally, the research funded through CAA has increased the ability of professionals to more properly screen, diagnose, and treat individuals with autism. The Combating Autism Reauthorization Act of 2011 ensures that the programs established under the original law continue for an additional three years, including CDC surveillance programs, HRSA intervention and training programs, and the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC).
Michelle Diament reports at Disability Scoop:
Mindful of the political climate, advocacy organizations including Autism Speaks and the Autism Society are backing the bill, acknowledging that maintaining the current level of support is probably the best that can be expected.
“It’s realistic,” says Alison Tepper-Singer, president of the Autism Science Foundation, which is also supporting the legislation. “There are a lot of things this community needs but this is a step forward in that it doesn’t allow the programs we’ve already made to lapse.”
But not everyone is on board. The Autistic Self Advocacy Network is strongly opposing the legislation, arguing that the current bill focuses too little on services for individuals with autism and pays almost no attention to adults with the developmental disorder.
“It tells adults and all those families waiting for services that they’re just going to have to wait for three long years,” says Ari Ne’eman, president of the self-advocate group.
It’s not immediately clear when Congress will take up the legislation, but advocates say they expect lawmakers to act quickly.