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Thursday, September 8, 2011

CARA Moves

U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) today announced that his bill to combat Autism took a key step forward, being unanimously approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. The Combating Autism Reauthorization Act (S. 1094) is a critical piece of bipartisan legislation will extend the programs authorized under the original Combating Autism Act (CAA) to continue for an additional three years.

The CAA provides for autism surveillance programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as intervention and training programs at the Health Resources and Services Administration. Additionally, this legislation allows for the continuation of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), which is responsible for advising the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) on autism polices, coordinating the federal response to autism and developing the annual strategic plan for autism research. These programs have been critical in advancing research on the causes, diagnosis and treatments of autism. The CAA sunsets on September 30. Next the bill will move to the full Senate for consideration and then be sent to the U.S. House of Representatives.

In testimony on July 11, however, NIMH director Thomas Insel explained:

The CAA dealt with five general provisions: centers of excellence, surveillance, education for early detection and intervention, the IACC, and authorization of funding. The 11 Autism Centers of Excellence, surveillance efforts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), programs for early detection and intervention, and funding for all of these programs is authorized to continue with or without reauthorization of the CAA. The one provision that requires reauthorization to continue is the IACC, which is scheduled to sunset on September 30, 2011. [emphasis added]