Washington -Senators Christopher Dodd (D-CT) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) today unveiled legislation to comprehensively address autism and support those living with it. Menendez will re-introduce the bill early in the next session of Congress. The legislation includes provisions to boost autism research, provide support services for affected individuals and families and to improve the health care of those living with autism.

Dodd said: "Autism can have a devastating effect on children and their families. Families struggling to raise a child with autism deserve our support, and they deserve answers. This legislation will help move us toward a better understanding of autism and help better support those living with this difficult disability. These efforts must carry on in the years to come, and I thank Senator Menendez for continuing to champion this important legislation in the next Congress."

Menendez said: "Families in New Jersey, more than anywhere else, understand that we need to address autism on multiple fronts - with research, with early treatment and with a support structure and services for affected individuals and families. I am proud to join with Senator Dodd in introducing the kind of comprehensive initiative that is needed, and I thank him not only for his work on this legislation, but for his tireless advocacy for those affected by autism over the years. I intend to carry on Senator Dodd's legacy by sponsoring and re-introducing this bill early in the next session of Congress."

Specifically the bill will:

Extends Existing Authorizations
• Ensures that the critical programs established under the Combating Autism Act of 2006 continue, including CDC surveillance programs, HRSA intervention and training programs, and the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC).

Makes Investments in Service Related Activities
• Creates a one-time, single year planning and multiyear service provision demonstration grant programs to States, public, or private nonprofit entities;

• Establishes a national technical assistance center to gather and disseminate information on evidence-based treatments, interventions, and services; and

• Authorizes multiyear grants to provide interdisciplinary training, continuing education, technical assistance, and information to improve services rendered to individuals with ASD and their families.

Establishes a National Institute of Autism Spectrum Disorders
• Creates a new National Institute of Autism Spectrum Disorders within NIH, to consolidate funding and accelerate research focused on prevention, treatment, services, and cures. This cross-agency institute will be able to have a coordinated and targeted research agenda aimed at improving the lives of individuals with autism.

The original Combating Autism Act of 2006 was a bi-partisan effort which expanded federal investment for Autism research through NIH, services, diagnosis and treatment through HRSA, and surveillance and awareness efforts through the CDC. In total, CAA authorized $ 1 billion over five years, thereby having increased federal spending on Autism by 50 percent. As part of the negotiations on the bill, however, a FY11 sunset provision was included on all authorizations. As a result, some existing federal efforts through NIH, HRSA, and CDC would cease to exist in the coming Fiscal Year without any action. This reauthorization bill, introduced today, will not only extend these important authorizations but also make exciting investment in services related activities and create a new National Institute of Autism Spectrum Disorders within NIH.