NEWARK, N.J. – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee that sets national health policy and the leading advocate in Congress for individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) and their families, today celebrated the signing of the Autism Coordination, Accountability, Research, Education and Support (CARES) Act of 2019 into law. Sen. Menendez authored the bipartisan bill, cosponsored by Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), which, for the first time, considers the needs of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) well into adulthood and “across [their] lifetime.”

“The signing of this important legislation into law ensures the federal government will continue to fund and drive critical research into what causes autism spectrum disorder and the development of innovative treatment and supports to help individuals with ASD reach their full, God-given potential,” said Sen. Menendez. “I am proud to have worked with individuals with ASD, their families, advocates and the broader autism community to craft Autism CARES 2019, build upon the law I wrote in 2014, and ensure the federal response addresses an individual’s evolving needs well into adulthood and across their lifespan. This is about helping and improving the lives of individuals and their families. It is why I went into public service, and I couldn’t be happier for the scores of people who will continue to benefit from Autism CARES.”

One in 59 children nationwide have ASD, according to the latest study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released last year, a jump of 15% since the previous study was conducted in 2016 and up from one in 166 in 2005. New Jersey has the highest rate of autism, with one in 34 children identified with ASD.

Autism CARES 2019 builds upon the 2014 Menendez-authored law, and shapes federal autism policy and investment in research, early detection, and research to develop new treatments and therapies for those with ASD and other developmental disabilities.

The bipartisan Autism CARES 2019 affirms Congress’ commitment to individuals with autism spectrum disorder and other intellectual and developmental disabilities, and their families. In addition to reauthorizing existing federal autism programs through 2024, the legislation strengthens those programs by adding the phrase “across the lifespan” where appropriate to ensure they can address the needs of individuals with ASD and other intellectual and developmental disabilities throughout all stages of life. The provision builds upon key elements of Sen. Menendez’s Assistance in Gaining Experience, Independence and Navigation (AGE-IN) Act that were incorporated in the 2014 law to address the needs of youth and young adults as they transition out of school-based support to independent adulthood.

Autism CARES 2019 also:

  • Authorizes research under the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to address the entire scope of autism spectrum disorder;
  • Designates regional centers of excellence for ASD research and epidemiology
  • Directs activities to increase public awareness of autism, improve the ability of health providers to use evidence-based interventions, and increase early screening and detection
  • Authorizes $23.1 million to the CDC for developmental disability surveillance and research;
  • Authorizes $50.6 million to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) for education, early detection, and intervention, and allows HRSA to prioritize new grant applicants in rural or underserved areas;
  • Authorizes $296 million for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for research;
  • Requires the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to provide a report to Congress on the health and well-being of individuals of all ages with ASD and other developmental disabilities.

In February, Sen. Menendez visited Quest Autism Programs in Midland Park, N.J., a community-based day program for adults with autism, to announce introduction of Autism CARES 2019. During Autism Awareness Month in April, Sen. Menendez toured LifeTown, a state-of-the-art, 53,000-square-foot, educational, recreational and therapeutic facility in Livingston, N.J., serving the needs of individuals of all ages with ASD, to push for the bill’s passage.