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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Implementing the Combating Autism Act

Several weeks ago, the Government Accountability Office issued a report on implementation of the Combating Autism Act:
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) agencies responded to the Combating Autism Act of 2006 (CAA) by establishing some new autism activities and continuing others. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) created a new initiative to address specific directives in the CAA. Through this initiative, HRSA expanded its existing training programs by requiring grantees to include training specific to autism. It also established new autism research grants and funded new state grants to improve services for children with autism. HRSA awards its autism grants under the authority of the CAA. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continued their autism activities—some of which were undertaken in response to the Children’s Health Act of 2000—but did not create new programs as a direct result of the CAA. NIH continued to fund, expand, and coordinate autism research through its Autism Centers of Excellence and autism-specific grants and contracts. CDC continued to fund its regional centers of excellence for autism epidemiology and other activities, such as an awareness campaign. HHS’s Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC)—reauthorized by the CAA—assumed additional responsibilities to coordinate autism efforts within HHS and restructured its membership to include more nonfederal members. NIH created the Office of Autism Research Coordination to coordinate and manage the IACC. The CAA did not appropriate funds to any HHS agency. Nevertheless, overall spending on HRSA, NIH, CDC, and IACC autism activities increased from approximately $143.6 million in fiscal year 2006 to approximately $240.4 million in fiscal year 2011.