Menendez Seeks Commitment for Supportive Housing for Those with Autism, Developmental Disabilities

Menendez Seeks Commitment for Supportive Housing for Those with Autism, Developmental Disabilities

NJ Has Highest Rate of Children with Autism in Nation; Rate = 1 in 45


NEWARK, NJ – Following a robust initiative to help end family homelessness in President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget proposal, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) sent a letter to U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julián Castro requesting the prioritization of community-based supportive housing needs of those with autism and other developmental disabilities.

“About 64,000 families, including roughly 123,000 children, are currently homeless, and the proposed investment of $11 billion over ten years is laudable,” wrote Menendez. “I do, however, have concerns that persons with autism and other developmental disabilities have been and will continue to be overlooked as we address widespread community housing needs.”

He continued: “The need to address issues facing youth and young adults with autism and other development disabilities is only increasing, a cornerstone of which is increased access to community-based supportive housing… I write you today to request your commitment in the immediate near-term to both provide this segment of the population with additional supportive housing services and to educate the public on the availability thereof.”

According to a report by the CDC, autism rates climbed nearly 30% between 2008 and 2010, to 1 in 68 children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, from 1 in 88 children. In New Jersey, that prevalence is 1 in 45 children.

Senator Menendez is the leading advocate in Congress for individuals with autism and their families, having authored the Autism Coordination, Accountability, Research, Education and Support Act, also known as the Autism CARES Act, which was signed into law on August 8, 2014. Additionally, he secured the passage of the 2011 reauthorization of the Combating Autism Act, and also authored the Assistance in Gaining Experience, Independence and Navigation (AGE-IN) Act to address the needs of youth and young adults as they transition out of school-based support to independent adulthood.

Additionally, Menendez led passage of the Frank Melville Supportive Housing Investment Act of 2010, which made critical improvements to HUD’s Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities program and expanded affordable housing options for Americans with disabilities.

The full letter to HUD follows and can be downloaded here.

February 19, 2016

The Honorable Julián Castro
Secretary
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
451 7th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20410 

Dear Secretary Castro:

I write today regarding President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget proposal and specifically his request to help end family homelessness.  Additionally, I commend the work of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on curbing growing homelessness.  Further, I ask for you to prioritize the supportive housing needs of those with autism and other developmental disabilities, and to further breakdown regulatory and administrative barriers that may impair the ability of federally-supported programs to effectively serve these populations.

As you know, about 64,000 families, including roughly 123,000 children, are currently homeless, and the proposed investment of $11 billion over ten years is laudable.  I do, however, have concerns that persons with autism and other developmental disabilities have been and will continue to be overlooked as we address widespread community housing needs.  This is a growing area of need, specifically for those individuals on the autism spectrum who have “aged-out” of school-based supports and services and now find themselves lacking access to similar supports in the community.  

The need to address issues facing youth and young adults with autism and other developmental disabilities is only increasing, a cornerstone of which is increased access to community-based supportive housing.  For thousands of young people with autism spectrum disorders – 50,000 youths every year – the end of high school means the end of school-based support and skills training.  Lacking meaningful support networks post-high school, these young adults often stall or regress from the social, behavioral, educational and emotional progress made during their time in school.  Nationally, there is a lack of understanding about the services available to transitioning youth, particularly those related to community-based supportive housing. 

As a primary step to better understanding this issue, I included language in The Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education and Support Act (the Autism CARES Act, P.L. 114-390) requiring the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in collaboration with several cabinet agencies including HUD, to report to Congress on the challenges facing youth and young adults as they transition out of school-based services into those based in the community.  This report is due to be completed by August, 2016, and I trust that HUD has been working collaboratively with HHS to get it completed on time. 

While this report will provide Congress with much needed insight in to the availability of services and direction on next steps, I write you today to request your commitment in the immediate near-term to both provide this segment of the population with additional supportive housing services and to educate the public on the availability thereof.

I recognize that we have made significant strides for persons with disabilities, in large part through the passage of the Frank Melville Supportive Housing Investment Act of 2010 (P.L. 111-374).  I led the effort to make these improvements to the Section 811 program, one that I consider to be a critical source of supportive housing options for those with disabilities.  Now, however, I am asking you to work to further break down administrative and regulatory barriers so we can more efficiently serve the needs of the specific segment of our population with autism and other developmental disabilities.

With that goal in mind, I ask that you provide detailed responses to the following questions:

1. Of the requested $11 billion outlined in the Fiscal Year 2017 budget proposal, how much will be specifically targeted to expand access to community-based supportive housing for adults with autism and other developmental disabilities?

2. Under current budget authority, what proactive steps will HUD take to address the widespread need for community-based supportive housing for adults with autism and other developmental disabilities?

3. In addition to the aforementioned required collaboration with HHS, in what specific ways does HUD currently partner with HHS on supportive housing policy affecting adults with autism and other developmental disabilities, and to what extent does HUD plan to so in the future?

4. What statutory and regulatory barriers exist that impede comprehensive collaboration between HUD, HHS, and other agencies in addressing the supportive housing needs of adults with autism and other developmental disabilities?

Thank you in advance for your attention to this request.

Sincerely,

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