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Co-Chairs of House Autism Caucus Announce Funding for Critical DOD Autism Research Program

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Location: Washington, DC

Smith, Doyle work to secure $6.4 million for program for FY08

A boost in funding to assist military families touched by autism spectrum disorders is a step closer to reality as the House passed the compromise version of the defense funding bill which included $6.4 million for a critical DOD autism research program, Coalition on Autism Research and Education (C.A.R.E.) co-chairs U.S. Reps. Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Mike Doyle (D-PA) announced today.

Smith and Doyle, who worked tirelessly to secure funding for the program, said that $6.4 million has been earmarked in the "FY08 Defense Appropriations Act" (H.R. 3222) for a research account in the Defense Health Programs for the sole purpose of improving treatment and intervention for individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).

"Military families already face unique challenges and extraordinary stresses. These challenges are compounded for military families with an autistic child. We have an obligation to our servicemen, servicewomen and their families to ease their burdens—including and especially—assisting military families care for children with special needs," said Smith.

"This legislation will make a major difference for the military families that are dealing with autism," Doyle said. "They deserve no less."

The DOD autism program was created by a provision in the FY07 Defense Appropriations Act" (P.L. 109-289) authored by Smith and Doyle.

Research directed by the DoD program will not only help military children currently affected by autism—which some estimates peg at 12,000 children—but will also benefit the general autism population as new findings and techniques will be shared with the medical, educational, healthcare and service professionals who serve the needs of the autism community both within the DoD and beyond.

"The extremely high prevalence numbers for autism require a full court press—addressing the issue from every possible angle. Our understanding of autism should significantly expand as a result of this program, opening up the door to new effective treatments," said Smith. "In doing so, not only will the DoD's research help military families with autistic children, but what is learned through the program will be shared with the general population so that all can benefit."

"I'm very proud that we've been able to mobilize support in Congress for this funding," said Doyle. "What's more, I believe that the research done by DoD will subsequently benefit civilian families dealing with autism as well."

The Congressional Coalition on Autism Research and Education headed by Smith and Doyle now counts 169 Representatives as members and has been credited with helping to significantly increase federal funding for autism initiatives. For instance, funding for autism programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has increased from about $287,000 in 1995 to $15.1 million in 2006. During that same period autism funding at the National Institutes of Health increased from $10.5 million in 1995 to $108 million in 2006.

Smith, Doyle and the members of C.A.R.E. are committed to continuing this trend, especially in light of rising ASD prevalence numbers. Earlier this year, the CDC released groundbreaking data documenting the high prevalence of ASDs around the country. As a result of this landmark study, it is now believed that 1 out of every 150 children born in the United States suffers from an ASD, as classified by the CDC.

The Conference Report for "FY08 Defense Appropriations Act" (H.R. 3222)—which is in essence the compromise bill between the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate—passed the House today by a vote of 400-15. It must still pass the Senate before the President has an opportunity to sign it into law.


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