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Schumer Announces Congressional Passage Of Landmark Autism Legislation

Combating Autism Act Would Provide $945 Million In New Funding For Research And Treatment

Senator, Who Visited Autism Centers Across Upstate NY Building Support For Bill, Calls On The President To Quickly Sign Legislation

Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced Congressional approval of the Combating Autism Act, which would authorize $945 million over five years to increasing and coordinating federal research and education about autism. Nationwide, autism has a tremendous impact on children and the lives of their families, with the rate of autism growing to 1 out of every 166 children now being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

Autism is a nationwide epidemic that has lived in the shadows for too long, Schumer said. This critical legislation will provide invaluable funding for autism treatment centers in New York State and across the country. I am proud to have fought to enable access to counseling and education for families affected by autism and give the public and private researchers the tools they need to find a cure for this terrible disease.

The Combating Autism Act creates a national education program for doctors and the public about autism, provides grants for statewide autism screening, and creates a nationwide data clearinghouse. Additionally, the bill increases the collaboration of individuals and groups who are working on autism, reconstitutes the activities of the Autism Coordinating Committee that brings together the efforts of various federal agencies and empowers it to develop a strategic plan for the conduct and support of autism research, with budgetary recommendations. In August while traveling in upstate New York, Schumer called on the leadership in the House of Representatives to pass the legislation. The House finally passed the bill on Wednesday with some modifications, and the Senate approved the final bill Thursday afternoon. The bill now goes to President George W. Bush for his signature.

Studies by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention suggest that the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders has significantly increased, from approximately four in 10,000 in the early 1990s to as many as one in every 166 births today. Despite strikingly high prevalence, autism research remains one of the lowest funded areas of medical research by both public and private sources. Currently, the causes of autism are unknown and there are no specific medical treatments or cure. Physicians have no blood test or diagnostic scan that can definitively diagnose the disorder.

This year, Schumer visited several autism treatment centers across the state including the Wildwood School in Albany, the University of Rochester autism disorders program, the Jowonio School in Syracuse, and the Discovery Health Center in Sullivan County. In New York State, there are not enough services for kids with special needs. 1700 kids a year are placed at facilities outside New York State, at a cost of $2 million to $3 million a year.