Bennet-Backed Bipartisan Bill to Combat Autism Clears Key Senate Hurdle

Washington, DC – Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet today voted to support committee passage of a bipartisan bill to ensure critical programs to address the public challenges posed by autism will continue. The Combating Autism Reauthorization Act, which Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Bennet cosponsored, passed the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) with bipartisan support.

“For too long, autism has been misunderstood, and we are finally beginning to understand the complexities of this medical condition,” said Bennet. “However, as many Colorado families know, we still have a lot of work to do to spread awareness and understanding of autism in our communities. We cannot jeopardize the progress we have made and the path we’re on toward even more progress by allowing these research, surveillance, awareness and treatment programs to expire. I hope the full Congress will pass this bill with the same bipartisan support as the HELP Committee.”

The bill reauthorizes the original Combating Autism Act of 2006 and will ensure that vital programs set to expire at the end of this fiscal year are extended for another three years. The 2006 bill marked the beginning of comprehensive federal efforts to address autism and the following significant advances has been achieved due to this bill:

  • Detailed surveillance of the prevalence of autism;
  • Improved methods for autism screening;
  • Identification of several autism susceptibility genes;
  • Development of clinical guidelines and new treatments for medical conditions commonly associated with autism;
  • Development of promising interventions for children with autism; and
  • Training in and dissemination of best practices in screening, diagnosis and treatment.

Autism spectrum disorders (ASD) currently affect approximately 1 in 110 American children. The original bill drove significant improvements in our understanding of the causes and treatment of ASD and initiated the first nationwide ASD data collecting effort, which is providing valuable information to researchers as they work to improve prevention and treatment of autism disorders.

The following organizations support the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act: American Academy of Pediatrics, American Association on Health and Disabilities, American Association of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, American Music Therapy Association, Association of University Centers on Disabilities, Autism Society, Autism Speaks, Division for Early Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children (DEC), Easter Seal, Epilepsy Foundation, IDEA Infant Toddlers Coordinators Association (ITCA), Inter-National Association of Business, Industry and Rehabilitation, National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities, National Association of State Directors of Special Education (NASDSE), National Disability Rights Network, The Arc of the United States and United Cerebral Palsy.