Congress – Changes Planned for Autism Law

Congress – The Combating Autism Act of 2006 was the first law that was unique to autism and was passed by Congress.

The Hill news website reports that:

‘Autism Speaks is backing legislation from House Republicans that would reauthorize the program and provide about $230 million in funding.’

The Autism Policy Reform Coalition (APRC) is against the bill and argue that a drastic overhaul is needed for the money to be used effectively.

APRC have allies in Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), and plan to introduce a competing bill that would pursue a different approach. One aim is to dictate where research dollars should be spent.

The group said that it is time that Congress took a more aggressive approach.

Craig Snyder, autism lobbyist and chief spokesman for the APRC said:

“So far, the government’s attempt to combat it has completely fallen short,” he added. “It is not a serious effort that has failed. I would called it a fake effort, a cosmetic effort that was doomed to failure from the beginning.”

The Combating Autism Act was initially funded at nearly $1 billion and launched the first national survey at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to gauge the prevalence of autism.

Last month healthcare and disability groups urged lawmakers to renew the act. The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities wrote in one letter:

“This comprehensive strategy is accelerating our efforts to better understand this increasingly prevalent developmental disability,”

APRC believe it would be better for lawmakers to let the autism act expire on Sept. 30 rather than continuing it in its current form.

“We believe it is better for the country to face the end of these programs and to have a serious dialogue about what went wrong than to put another seal of approval on bad policy,”

APRC want to centralize federal autism research within a new office at the NIH modeled on the Office of AIDS Research and for it to have its own budget.

Senior policy advisor and counsel at Autism Speaks Stuart Spielman, said that the current program should be kept in place.

“There are certainly things we can do better,” he said. “But it took a long time to build this edifice, this structure, and we need to build on it, not start from scratch.”

An aide to Menendez said that the senator maintains an open-door policy with all stakeholders and added:

“We’ve worked hard to draft a bill that both recognizes the priorities of the broad range of stakeholders, as well reflects the political realities of what’s achievable.”

The original article by Elise Viebeck on The Hill news website can be read here