Today, Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (NJ-06) marked World Autism Day by touring the Rutgers University, Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center (DDDC) and speaking out against the across the board budget cuts known as sequestration that slashed critical funding to autism research and programs. Pallone was joined by Linda Brzustowicz, Acting Senior Associate Vice President of Research and Economic Development and Chair of Genetics, Rutgers University; Lara Delmolino, Director, DDDC & Clinical Associate Professor, Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology at Rutgers University; Bob Titus, Public Policy Director, Autism New Jersey; a parent of an autistic child and other New Jersey autism advocates.
Those with autism and related disorders face a long-term loss of billions of dollars in services and supports as a result of the $85 billion federal spending cut that took effect March 1, 2013. This is the first in a series of annual cuts intended to reduce federal spending by $1.2 trillion by 2021 or until Congress and the President can agree on more targeted cuts.
"The work being done at the DDDC is extraordinary and helping so many families," said Pallone. "That's why it is so important that the DDDC has the tools it needs to continue its good work. Unfortunately, Republicans in Congress chose to use funding for programs like these for political maneuvering rather than investing in the futures of those with autism when they allowed extreme across the board spending cuts to go into effect last month. Budgets are about more than numbers and dollars -- they are real-life expressions of priorities, choices and values. These choices have an impact on the lives of millions of Americans, and that includes the million families that are currently coping with autism. I voted against these cuts and I will continue to speak out in opposition to this blind, slash and burn approach because New Jersey and the nation deserve better from Congress than a plan that inflicts so much harm to so many people."
Among the agencies affected are the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which funds autism research, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which monitors the prevalence of autism in America, and the Human Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), which helps fund the Autism Treatment Network.
"The impact of these cuts would affect all people with autism regardless of age or range of ability, reaching into special education, housing, research and even employment support. While none of these impacts will be felt immediately, they will grow more apparent and worse each day that the federal budget crisis goes unresolved," said Pallone.
Autism spectrum disorder widely affects children in the United States, and a new survey of parents released by the CDC last week suggests that one in 50 school age child has autism. This new report indicates that the prevalence of autism is on the rise. The CDC previously estimated that one in 88 children in the country has autism, and in New Jersey, that number is one in every 48, the second highest prevalence in the nation.
"Families and individuals are overcoming significant challenges on a daily basis," said Pallone. "We must treat autism as an urgent public health concern and raise awareness of the disorder, which is why World Autism Day is so important, and why Congress must prioritize policies that will help."