WASHINGTON, DC—Autism is the fastest growing developmental disorder in the U.S. However, it has been the most underfunded. Those dynamics just changed earlier this week when on Monday, September 30, 2019, legislation authored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ, Monmouth, Ocean and Mercer Counties) to authorize $1.8 billion over five years to help children and adults with autism by funding research, early detection and treatment, was signed into law by President Trump.

Congressman Smith has been an advocate for autism research and treatment since September of 1997, when Bobbie and Billy Gallagher of Brick, N.J., parents of two then very young autistic children, walked into his Ocean County office. They were looking for help in solving the problem of very little funding, and barely any awareness for autism.

That was the beginning of Smith's dedication to helping the cause with 3 prior laws signed, this week marking his 4th. The Gallagher’s continue to this day to work with Smith on autism advocacy issues. Their children are now grown which presents new challenges such as aging out of specific programs. Congressman Chris Smith is a problem solver, having successfully worked for over 90,000 individuals like the Gallagher's, who have come to him for help on specific matters over the years. According to the independent watchdog organization Govtrack, as of January, 2019 Mr. Smith ranks second among all 435 Members of the House over the last two decades in the number of laws authored. According to the official Congress.gov website, Rep. Smith has authored 46 laws.  Below is a message from Congressman Smith here at a meeting with TAPinto: 

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VIDEO: Congressman Chris Smith speaks with TAPinto Holmdel and Colts Neck:  

 


The comprehensive new Autism CARES law, co-sponsored by Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) will fund critical biomedical autism research as well as the development of best practices to enhance the lives of persons with autism.  "We need answers now and treatment options and interventions that work,” said Smith. 

According to the CDC; An average of one in 59 children are identified with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). Boys are diagnosed with ASD four times more than girls. It is a life-long neurological disorder that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. The thinking, learning and problem solving abilities of children with ASD can range from gifted to severely challenged. There is no cure for ASD, but early intervention and treatment can greatly improve a child's development. Currently, there are an estimated 1.5 million American children with autism and New Jersey has the nation’s highest rate, with 1 in every 34 children identified with ASD.

Specific Details of the Autism CARES Act of 2019:
 Authorizes $1.8 billion—including annual funding for the  National Institutes of Health (NIH) at $296 million, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at $23.1 million, and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) at $50 million.
Reauthorizes and expands the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC);
adds new members of IACC from the Departments of Labor, Justice, Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development;
Increases from two to three IACC members who are self-advocates, parents or legal guardians and advocacy/service organizations;
Empowers the Health and Human Services Secretary to prioritize grants to “rural and underserved areas” and;
Requires that not later than two years after enactment, a comprehensive report on the demographic factors associated with the health and well-being of individuals with ASD, recommendations on establishing best practices to ensure interdisciplinary coordination, improvements for health outcomes, community based behavioral support and interventions, nutrition and recreational and social activities, personal safety and more.
 
Smith said that Autism CARES expands government programs to include older persons with autism “who were—and are—often misdiagnosed, under-diagnosed and overlooked.”   According to Drexel University’s AJ Drexel Autism Center,  about 70,700 to 111,600 children “age out” into adulthood each year  creating challenges for education, housing, employment and access to health care.
     
“Aging out of services is a hurdle every parent or caretaker of a child with autism inevitably faces,” Smith said. “Children grow up and become adults, and then lose their education and support services. But autism is a lifetime neurological disorder, and young adults with autism continue to need their services. The Autism CARES Act recognizes the problem of aging out and ensures that the federal government continues to help hundreds of thousands of young adults with autism and their parents by funding research and support programs.”

“The Autism CARES Act is yet another hard-won victory borne out of Congressman Smith’s and his colleagues’ dedication to the autism community and bipartisan collaboration,” said Suzanne Buchanan, Executive Director of Autism New Jersey. “Their work across the aisle and tireless efforts to retain critical components of the legislation remind us what is right and good about our federal government. Individuals with autism and their families are a federal priority, and the Autism CARES Act is a smart investment that will help individuals with autism today and for generations to come.”

Smith said he's grateful to the more than 35 non-governmental organizations that have endorsed his legislation, including the Autism Society of America, Autism Speaks, Autism New Jersey, the Association of University Centers on Disabilities, the Children’s Hospital Association, the National Council on Severe Autism, Congress and the National Down Syndrome Society.

He has also authored three other autism laws: HR 4631, the Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research and Education (CARES) Act (PL 113-157) in 2014HR 2005, the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act (CARA)(PL 112-32), in 2011; and HR 274, Autism Statistics, Surveillance, Research, and Epidemiology Act (ASSURE) of 2000 (PL 106-310) included as part of the Children’s Health Act in 2000.

For the latest version of the press release click here: chrissmith.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=406155