Voters: MARK YOUR CALENDARS
Next Wednesday–August 3– marks a critical day in the federal government’s commitment to address the staggering rise in autism. That is the day Congress takes an important step to renew the Combating Autism Act of 2006. Unless Congress renews the law by September 30, this federal commitment in support of autism will disappear. The prospects for continued research, as well as promising new treatments, will be cast into disarray.
The U.S.Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) will meet on August 3 to act on S.1094, the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act (CARA), which is sponsored by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Michael Enzi (R-WY.) In very short order, 21 other Senators have signed on as co-sponsors of this bill, which enjoys wide support from both Republicans and Democrats. That’s the case as well in the House of Representatives, where a companion bill (HR.2005) has been introduced by Representatives Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Mike Doyle (D-PA.)
The August 3 Senate hearing is a critical early step in renewing the Combating Autism Act of 2006. The hearing will enable the 22 Senators who are members of the HELP committee to offer their input. This body must act on the bill in order to get it before the full Senate, important steps to getting it cleared by the House and sent to the President’s desk by September 30. Until the committee approves the bill, the full Senate will be unable to act.
The autism community is fortunate that nine members of the Senate HELP committee, including ranking member Senator Enzi, are sponsors of CARA. But sponsorship is not enough. These Senate members, along with 10 other committee members who voted for the original 2006 act, must demonstrate their support at the August 3 hearing for a strong continued federal role for autism research, treatment and services.
Since the 2006 act was approved with near-unanimous Congressional support and signed into law by then President George W. Bush, the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) has risen to 1 in 110 American children – including 1 in 70 boys. An estimated 1.5 million individuals in the U.S. are affected by autism, and government statistics suggest the prevalence rate is increasing 10-17 percent annually.
The CAA authorized nearly $1 billion of federal spending through 2011 on biomedical and treatment research on autism. It required the federal government to develop a strategic plan to expand and better coordinate the nation’s support for persons with autism and their families. Important research findings have resulted and critical studies are underway. Promising new interventions are making a difference in our children’s lives. For more CAA success stories, click here.
The 2006 law established autism as a national health priority and increased funding, leading to significant advances in our understanding of autism. But all of that progress could grind to a halt September 30 unless Congress sends President Obama a bill reauthorizing the Combating Autism Act. CARA would continue federal funding at current levels – that’s $693 million over the next three years dedicated exclusively for autism-related work by the National Institute of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other federal agencies. The President already has promised to sign a reauthorization bill this year.
You can help. Visit our CARA Action Center where we will help you send a clear message to the members of the Senate HELP Committee. Sponsoring the bill is not enough—your Senators need to show up August 3 to carry the nation’s fight for answers to autism.