Washington - U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) today announced that his bill to combat Autism took a key step forward, being unanimously approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee. The Combating Autism Reauthorization Act (S. 1094) is a critical piece of bipartisan legislation will extend the programs authorized under the original Combating Autism Act (CAA) to continue for an additional three years.

The CAA provides for autism surveillance programs at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as intervention and training programs at the Health Resources and Services Administration. Additionally, this legislation allows for the continuation of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC), which is responsible for advising the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) on autism polices, coordinating the federal response to autism and developing the annual strategic plan for autism research. These programs have been critical in advancing research on the causes, diagnosis and treatments of autism. The CAA sunsets on September 30. Next the bill will move to the full Senate for consideration and then be sent to the U.S. House of Representatives.

"Passage of this bill is essential in continuing our efforts toward understanding autism and ensuring individuals living with developmental disabilities and their families have the support they need," said Sen. Menendez. "I want to thank Chairman Harkin for his leadership and commitment to moving this important legislation and Ranking Member Enzi for his continued support of it. As the lead cosponsor of this bill, his leadership helps to ensure the ongoing efforts originally set forth in the CAA can continue for at least another three years," said Senator Menendez. "As this legislation moves to the full Senate, I look forward to continuing to work with New Jersey families, advocates, and my colleagues in the Senate on this bipartisan effort."

Autism is the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the country, affecting on average 1 in 110 children and 1 in 70 boys. In New Jersey, 1 in 94 children are affected with autism spectrum disorders, one of the highest rates in the nation. This year more children will be diagnosed with autism than with AIDS, diabetes and cancer combined.