A program created to assist military families touched by autism spectrum disorders will receive a boost in funding over the next fiscal year, 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 included in the "FY 2009 Consolidated Security, Disaster Assistance, and Continuing Appropriations Act" (H.R. 2638) for "Autism Research" in the Research and Development account of the Defense Health Program to help improve treatment and intervention for individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). This legislation was passed by the House on September 24 and approved by the Senate on September 27 and signed into law by the President on September 30 (Public Law 110-329).
"Many people do not realize the depth and breadth of medical research sponsored by DOD, including robust programs to study specific diseases and disabilities. The DOD program on autism research promises to advance research that will lead to more effective interventions and improve the quality of life for military families and for the general public," said Smith.
"The Department of Defense is doing a lot of important research on human health," Congressman Doyle observed. "This research program is providing much-needed help to military families, and the results of its work will eventually benefit all families dealing with autism."
The DOD program was created by a provision in the FY07 Defense Appropriations Act" (P.L. 109-289) that was authored by Smith and Doyle.
Research directed by the DoD program will not only help military children currently affected by autismwhich some estimates peg at 12,000 childrenbut 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.
"Military life, with frequent changes of residence and extended deployments, poses special challenges to military families. Raising a child with autism in the military environment, particularly when a spouse is away for an extended period, compounds and magnifies those challenges," 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 increased from $287,000 in 1995 to $15.1 million in 2007. During that same period autism funding at the National Institutes of Health increased from $10.5 million to $127 million.
Smith, Doyle and the members of C.A.R.E. are committed to continuing this trend, especially in light of rising ASD prevalence numbers. 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 so we can improve assistance programs for those afflicted and their caregivers and develop more 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 of the answers."