I have made a major effort to support legislation in the Congress to help people with autism. An important part of this is increased autism funding for research and services. Autism is a developmental disorder that is typically diagnosed during the first 3 years of life, robbing individuals of their ability to communicate and interact with others. It affects an estimated 1 in every 150 children in the United States.
I am a co-sponsor of H.R. 1106 which passed the House earlier this year. It designated April 2008 as "National Autism Awareness Month and supports efforts to devote new resources to research into the causes and treatment of autism and to improve training and support for individuals with autism. H.R. 1106 also recognizes the shortage of trained teachers to teach, assist, and respond to special needs students; as well as the importance of worker training programs tailored to the needs of developmentally disabled persons.
Another key bill in the fight against Autism which I am supporting is "Expanding the Promise for Individuals With Autism Act" ( H.R. 1881). It provides additional treatment and support resources, increasing access to effective therapies and essential support services for people with autism.
It also authorizes approximately $350 million in new federal money - over and above all existing federal spending on autism - for important initiatives related to treatments, interventions, and services for both children and adults with autism.
This legislation provides demonstration grants for the coverage of treatments, interventions and services ($20 million annually), as well as planning and demonstration grants for services for adults with autism ($20 million annually). It also establishes grants for the expansion of immediate post-diagnosis care ($10 million in Fiscal Year 2009, growing to $20 million by Fiscal Year 2012).
I am also co-sponsoring the TEACH Act, H.R. 2390, which will help increase the number of autism teachers by providing a refundable tax credit for education and training expenses.
The Global Autism Assistance Act of 2008, H.R. 5446 is another key bill I am supporting. It sets up a USAID health and education grant program and establishes a "teach the teachers" program to train health and education professionals working with autistic children in developing countries.
I cosponsored HR 1032 - Alzheimer's Treatment and Caregiver Support Act to make grants to public and nonprofit private health care providers to expand treatment services for patients with Alzheimer's disease and training and support services for families and caregivers of such patients.
I have cosponsored legislation to combat cancer which is one of the leading causes of death in our nation. Legislation I have backed on this vital issue includes:
* HR 715 - the Annie Fox Act to expand, intensify, and coordinate activities regarding breast cancer in younger women, including the conduct and support of basic and clinical research on the causes, prevention, detection, treatment, and long-term effects of breast cancer in young women.
* HR 758 - Breast Cancer Patient Protect Action. This bill would require a group health plan to ensure that inpatient coverage and radiation therapy are provided for breast cancer treatment.
* HR 1064 - Breast Cancer Research Stamp Reauthorization Act. This bill extends provisions requiring the U.S. Postal Service to issue a special postage stamp for first-class mail to contribute funding for breast cancer research.
* HR 1157 - Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Act. This bill makes available grants to public or nonprofit private entities for the development and operation of centers to conduct multidisciplinary and multi-institutional research on environmental factors that may be related to the etiology of breast cancer.
* HR 1190 - Community Cancer Care Preservation Act. A bill that would improve cancer care coverage under Medicare and restore appropriate payment for the hours of cancer drug administration.
* HR 1738 - The Colorectal Cancer Early Detection, Prevention and Treatment Act. This bill will establish a program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to provide screenings and treatment for colorectal cancer and targets screening services toward individuals between 50 to 64 years of age or those under 50 years old but with high risk of such cancer.
Improving Children's Health Care
I have a longstanding record of promoting children's issues across our nation. I fully support the SCHIP program in providing better health care for our children, which is why I supported S. 2009, the SCHIP Extension Act of 2007 which passed the Congress last December. This legislation reauthorized and extended SCHIP through March 2009 in order to provide Congress the necessary time to work in a bi-partisan manner to craft a bill that will provide benefits to those who really need help--low-income, uninsured children.
I also cosponsored HR 2073 - Child Health Care Crisis Relief Act. This legislation establishes programs related to mental health services for children and adolescents including paying educational loans in exchange for providing mental health services to children and adolescents and to award scholarships to students who agree to work as child and adolescent mental health service professionals after graduation or completion of residence.
Expanding Health Centers
I am a cosponsor of HR 1343 - the Health Centers Renewal Act. This bill calls for reauthorization of the health centers program for five years. It will authorize Federal dollars for health centers to meet the health care needs of medically underserved populations.
Battle Against Heart Disease
I co-sponsored HR 1014 - the Heart Disease Education, Analysis Research, and Treatment for Women Act. The legislation authorizes grants to educate healthcare professionals about the prevalence and unique aspects of care for women in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseases. It would also require that healthcare data that is already being reported to the federal government be stratified by sex, as well as by race and ethnicity. Finally, it will improve screening for low-income women at risk for heart disease and stroke.
South Florida has one of the highest rates of AIDS cases in the state. Roughly 19 percent of the state total for those living with HIV infection reside in my District. So I am all too familiar with the human costs of this disease and hope for the day when its ravages are safely confined to the past. I have worked for funding to cure this malady both at home here in the U.S. as well as in the fight against HIV-AIDS in other nations.
I co-sponsored HR 3326 - Early Treatment For HIV Act. The bill will give states the option of providing Medicaid coverage for certain low-income HIV-infected individuals. According to the current Medicaid system, an HIV patient is only covered if they are disabled by AIDS. The bill would provide access to early detection and treatment before the patient becomes disabled.
I have also worked hard for HIV-AIDS prevention funding under the Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief. Since the passage of the original Leadership Act, extensive emergency treatment and prevention programs have begun to slow the advance of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. This bill has supported HIV testing and counseling for 30 million people, and cared for nearly 6.7 million, including almost 3 million orphans and vulnerable children. It has also supplied medicine for approximately 800,000 expectant mothers, preventing an estimated 157,000 infant HIV infections.
Improving Mental Health
I cosponsored HR 687 - Keeping Families Together Act to award competitive matching grants to states to establish systems of care to provide mental health treatment and services to all children who are in the custody of the state or at-risk of entering into the custody of the state for the purpose of receiving mental health services.
I am also a cosponsor of HR 1424 - Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity Act. The bill explicitly disallows separate cost-sharing arrangements, such as deductible, which add increased out-of-pocket cost to mental health and addiction care, and it requires plans that have an out-of-network option to offer it also for mental health and addiction care.
As a co-chair and founding member of the Congressional Vision Caucus, I have worked tirelessly to support better access to vision care for our families.
I supported HR 507, Vision Care for Kids Act, which was adopted in the House of Representatives, to award grants to states to provide comprehensive eye examinations by a licensed optometrist or ophthalmologist for children and provide treatment or services to correct vision problems of children.