The law modifies existing autism programs, according to a White House statement, and sets aside $1.8 billion in funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Health Resources and Services Administration over the next five years to use for these programs.
The bipartisan legislation was sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.).
“My bill, the Autism CARES Act of 2019 was just signed into law by @realDonaldTrump,” Smith wrote in a message on Twitter. “This comprehensive new law authorizes $1.8 billion over 5 years to help children & adults w/autism by funding research, early detection & treatment.”
The bill sets aside $296 million for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), $ 23.1 million for the CDC, and $50 million for Health Resources and Services Administration.
The new law “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 in a statement.
He said the new law expands the already existing programs to include older people with autism “who were—and are—often misdiagnosed, underdiagnosed and overlooked.”
The new law also reauthorizes and expands the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), a federal advisory committee that coordinates Federal efforts and advises the Secretary of Health and Human Services on issues related to autism spectrum disorder.
Smith said in the statement that the new law will allow members from Departments of Labor, Justice, Veterans Affairs, and Housing and Urban Development into the IACC. It also allows the Health and Human Services Secretary to prioritize grants to “rural and underserved areas.”
Doyle thanked advocates for their work on the bill in a message on Twitter.
“Great news! Yesterday, the Autism CARES Act was signed into law,” he wrote. “I introduced this bill with @RepChrisSmith to reauthorize funding for research on autism spectrum disorders and support individuals with autism throughout their lives. My thanks to advocates for your work!”
Smith’s legislation was supported by 35 non-governmental organizations 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, and the National Down Syndrome Society.
Autism spectrum disorder is a development disorder that can lead to social, communication and behavioral challenges. CDC says one in 59 children in the United States suffers from autism spectrum disorder and it is four times more prevalent in boys than in girls.