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Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC


STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS -- (Senate - March 20, 2007)

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By Mrs. CLINTON (for herself and Mr. Allard):

S. 937. A bill to improve support and services for individuals with autism and their families; to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Mrs. CLINTON. Mr. President, today, I, along with my colleague Senator Allard, am proud to introduce the Expanding the Promise for Individuals with Autism Act (EPIAA.) This legislation will help to increase the availability of treatments, services, and interventions for both children and adults with autism.

Last year, I worked with my colleagues on the HELP Committee to pass the Combating Autism Act into law. This important bill will increase the amount and type of research we are doing to understand the origins of this disease, and help us develop new treatments--and eventually--a cure. It will also help to increase the ability of our health professionals to screen and diagnose autism as early as possible in children, so as to improve our ability to treat this disease.

But while we are carrying out the research that will lead us to gain a better understanding of this disorder, we cannot forget those who are and who have been living with this disease today--the families who are desperate for assistance and help with a disorder that so often shuts off individuals from the world around them.

The need for this legislation is evident--we continue to see an increasing number of individuals with autism. Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released numbers that estimate that one in every 150 children are living with an autism spectrum disorder, numbers that are higher than those released even just a few short years ago. And our service delivery system for individuals with autism is being overwhelmed by this increase. The care involved in treating these symptoms often requires hours of intensive therapy every week--regimens that are often inaccessible to many families.

While we do not know what causes autism, we do know that with early intervention and concentrated treatment, the symptoms of autism spectrum disorder can be mitigated, enabling individuals with autism and their families to live less isolated lives. Our legislation will provide additional treatment and support resources, increasing access to effective therapies and essential support services for people with autism.

This legislation will do the following: Establish a Demonstration Grant Program to Assist States with Service Provision. While the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) is developing a long-term strategy for providing autism care and treatment services, there is currently no effort to plan for improved access to services in the immediate future. The EPIAA would establish a Treatment, Interventions and Services Evaluation Task Force to evaluate evidence-based services that could be implemented by States in the years immediately following enactment. The Secretary would then provide grants to states to help provide the services identified by the Task Force to individuals with autism.

Develop a Demonstration Grant Program for Adult Autism Services. While early diagnosis and treatment are critical for children with autism, the need for intervention and services continues across the lifespan. In order to help address the needs of adults living with autism, the EPIAA would establish a grant program for states to provide appropriate interventions and services, such as housing or vocational training, to adults with autism.

Increase Access to Services Following Diagnosis. After receiving a diagnosis of autism, many children and families must wait months before gaining access to appropriate treatment. In order to improve the ability to access a minimum level of services during this post-diagnosis period, the EPIAA would mandate that the Secretary develop guidance and provide funding to eliminate delays in access to supplementary health care, behavioral support services, and individual and family-support services.

Increase Support for Developmental Disabilities Centers of Excellence. Many families report difficulties in accessing services because of the limited number of health and education professionals who are trained to provide autism-specific services. In order to increase the number of individuals across sectors that can provide adequate care and treatment services for individuals living with autism, the EPIAA would increase the capacity of University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research and Service (UCEDDS) to train professionals in meeting the treatment, interventions and service needs of both children and adults living with autism.

Improve Protection and Advocacy Services. Early statistics from 2006 indicate that a quarter of individuals served under already-existing protection and advocacy programs are individuals with autism, a 6 percent increase from the previous year, yet thousands of individuals with autism are unable to access these services due to a lack of resources. The EPIAA will create a program to expand currently existing protection and advocacy services to assist individuals with autism and other emerging populations of individuals with disabilities.

Improves Technical Assistance and Evaluation. The EPIAA would establish a National Technical Assistance Center for Autism Treatments, Interventions and Services to act as a clearinghouse for information about evidence-based treatments, interventions and services, and analyze the grant programs under this Act.

The organizations supporting this legislation include Autism Speaks, the Autism Society of America, Easter Seals, the Association of University Centers for Disability, the Disability Policy Collaboration, and the National Disability Rights Network, and I have included their letters of support to be printed in the Record.

I look forward to working with Senator Allard and all of our colleagues to pass this legislation and help people with autism get the services they need.

There being no objection, the letters were ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

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