Congressman Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, meets with families and advocates for autism research in 2011 on the eve of passage of Smith's second autism bill, the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act, now Public Law 112-32. Passage of the Autism Cares Act of 2019 marks Smith’s fourth comprehensive law to combat autism. Courtesy photo
Congressman Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, meets with families and advocates for autism research in 2011 on the eve of passage of Smith's second autism bill, the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act, now Public Law 112-32. Passage of the Autism Cares Act of 2019 marks Smith’s fourth comprehensive law to combat autism. Courtesy photo
" This bill also helps adults with autism who were and are today often misdiagnosed, underdiagnosed and overlooked. "

The Smith-Doyle Autism CARES Act of 2019 was approved unanimously Sept. 19 by the Senate following July passage by the U.S. House of Representatives.

The bill now moves to the White House for President Trump’s signature.

“This $1.8 billion, five-year package will fund a whole-of-government approach to helping children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their families,” said Congressman Chris Smith, R-New Jersey. 

When enacted, the law will authorize autism-related programs at 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 $50.6 million annually, he said.

Rep. Smith of Hamilton is the prime sponsor of HR 1058, along with chief Democrat co-sponsor, Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pennsylvania.

“This bipartisan, bicameral legislation powerfully supports and pursues durable remedies and effective interventions for the approximately 1.5 million children with ASD – that is an estimated one in 59 children in the United States,” Smith said. “In my home state of New Jersey, [that’s] one in 34 children,” he said, one of the highest rates in the country.

“This bill also helps adults with autism who were and are today often misdiagnosed, underdiagnosed and overlooked,” he continued. “Language throughout the bill emphasizes that causes, diagnosis, detection, prevention and treatment of autism spectrum disorder must be throughout the lifespan of a person.”

Autism, Smith said, is a lifetime neurological disorder, and adults with autism continue to need their services. “The Autism CARES Act recognizes that and ensures that the federal government continues to help hundreds of thousands of parents by funding research and support programs and sharing best practices.”

In addition to authorizing $1.8 billion, the bill:

• 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”;

• Requires 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.

There are an estimated 1.5 million children with autism.