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Reps. Smith, Doyle Tout Funding for Critical DOD Autism Research Program

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Reps. Smith, Doyle Tout Funding for Critical DOD Autism Research Program

A program created to assist military families touched by autism spectrum disorders will receive a boost in funding over the next fiscal year should the House-passed defense funding bill become law, 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 $8 million has been marked in the "FY08 Defense Appropriations Act" (H.R. 3222) for a research account in the Defense Health Program for the sole purpose of improving treatment and intervention for individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). The "FY08 Defense Appropriations Act" (H.R. 3222) passed the House early this morning by a vote of 395-13.

"Any serviceman, servicewoman or military spouse will tell you that the demands of the job—frequent changes in residences, long deployments and other variables that accompany military life—pose unique challenges to family life. These challenges are compounded for military families with an autistic child. When one parent is away, the spouse at home must bear the challenge of raising a child with autism facing extraordinary stresses on top of the normal burdens of having a deployed spouse," said Smith.

"Nobody sacrifices more for this country that our military personnel and their families," Congressman Doyle observed. "The federal government has an obligation to find ways to help them deal with the challenges associated with an autistic family member. That's why Chris Smith and I have been working to establish this program and provide it with adequate funding."

The DOD 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.

"Make no mistake about it. The research directed by the DoD program will help military families with autistic children and benefit the general population as well. The DoD program seeks to enhance and supplement autism research already underway by medical, educational, healthcare and service professionals," said Smith.

The Congressional Coalition on Autism Research and Education (C.A.R.E.) headed by Smith and Doyle now has 160 Members of Congress 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 resources of every applicable federal agency must be marshaled to aid in our understanding of autism, assistance programs for those afflicted and their caregivers and pursuit of effective treatments," said Smith.

"There's so much we don't know yet about autism spectrum disorders and how to treat them," Congressman Doyle said today. "Tapping into DoD's health care expertise will help us get some answers."

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