Thursday, March 22, 2007

Senators Clinton and Allard Expanding the Promise for Individuals With Autism

The Autism Cause picked up more heavyweight support with the introduction by US Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Wayne Allard of a legislative proposal which would expand services for autistic persons of all ages. The struggle to raise awareness about autism, and obtain effective evidence based treatment and education services for autistic children, has dominated public advocacy and attention in the US and Canada. This effort by Senators Clinton and Allard draws much needed attention to the needs of autistic persons of all ages including adults. Autism Speaks has also announced that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton will serve as the honorary chair for the fifth annual Westchester-Fairfield Walk for Autism Research on Sunday, June 4.

Senators Clinton, Allard Unveil Legislation to Expand Access to Treatment, Interventions and Support Services for People with Autism

March 20, 2007 -- Washington, DC - At a press conference on Capitol Hill, Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Wayne Allard (R-CO) today joined with autism advocacy groups to unveil a new legislative initiative to expand access to treatment, interventions and support services for people with autism. The Expanding the Promise for Individuals with Autism Act (EPIAA) will provide initiatives and establish demonstration grant programs to enable people with autism and their families to live richer, fuller lives. Senators Clinton and Allard were joined by Bob Wright, Co-Founder, Autism Speaks; Lee Grossman, President and CEO of the Autism Society of America; George Jesien, Executive Director, Association of University Centers for Disabilities and Alison Singer of Scarsdale, New York, parent and sibling of individuals with autism.

"It is a tragedy when children and adults with autism are not able to fully participate in their communities because they cannot access the services that would allow them to do so. The more we learn about autism, the more hope we have for treatment and the more tragic inaction becomes. This epidemic requires our smartest, best, comprehensive response and we must continue our efforts to provide treatment, care, greater research and understanding of autism spectrum disorder," said Senator Clinton.

"With more individuals being diagnosed with autism, and medical research demonstrating the importance of early intervention, I am pleased to support this bill, which will provide the critical funding and programs necessary to provide early diagnosis, treatment and services for autistic children, adults and their families," said Senator Allard.

"This bill specifically addresses the most critically important issue to the autism community today - obtaining appropriate services across the lifespan," said Lee Grossman, President and CEO of the Autism Society of America (ASA). "Our families and individuals with autism are pleased that their voices have been heard by Senators Clinton and Allard, and encourage their Senate colleagues to support EPIAA."

"We thank Senator Clinton for her remarkable leadership in spearheading this legislation that has the potential to deliver real and meaningful change for millions of individuals and families impacted by autism," said Bob Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks.

In the United States, one out of every 150 children has an autism spectrum disorder, and prevalence is on the rise. The range and severity of symptoms of autism vary from case to case, but symptoms often include difficulties in communicating, interacting with other individuals and sensory processing. The care involved in treating these symptoms often requires hours of intensive therapy every week - regimens that are often inaccessible to many families.

The Clinton-Allard bill will expand access to treatment, interventions and support services for people with autism and their families by:

Establishing a Demonstration Grant Program to Assist States with Service Provision. The Clinton-Allard bill will provide grants to states to help them provide evidence-based treatments, interventions and services.

Developing a Demonstration Grant Program for Adult Autism Services. While early diagnosis and intervention services are critical for children with autism, the need for intervention and services continues across the lifespan. To help address the needs of adults living with autism, the Clinton-Allard bill will establish a demonstration grant program to help provide appropriate interventions and services to adults with autism. These grants will go to states to provide appropriate interventions and services, such as housing or vocational training, to adults with autism.

Increasing Access to Services Following Diagnosis. Many children and families must wait months before gaining access to appropriate treatment after receiving a diagnosis of autism. To decrease this post-diagnosis waiting period, the Clinton-Allard bill will mandate that the Secretary of Health and Human Services develop guidelines to increase the amount and quality of post-diagnosis treatments, interventions, and services. The guidelines will also eliminate delays in access to supplementary healthcare, behavioral support services, and individual and family-support services through Federal and State funded programs.

Increasing Support for Developmental Disabilities Centers of Excellence. Many families report difficulties in accessing services because of the limited number of health and education professionals who are trained to provide autism-specific services. To increase the number of individuals across sectors that can provide adequate care and treatment services for individuals living with autism, the Clinton-Allard bill will increase the capacity of University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Education, Research and Service to train professionals in meeting the treatment, interventions and service needs of both children and adults living with autism.

Examining Issues of Financing for Autism Services. The Clinton-Allard bill will require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study the financing of autism treatment and services, including current public and private insurance coverage for autism treatment and support services, and identify geographic and regional disparities in access to care. The GAO will make recommendations as to how to finance treatment and care services to remove both cost and geographic barriers and attain a uniform baseline of coverage across the United States.

Improving Protection and Advocacy Services. Last year, thousands of individuals with autism were unable to access already-existing protection and advocacy services due to a lack of resources. The Clinton-Allard bill will create a program to expand these services to assist individuals with autism and other emerging populations of individuals with disabilities to meet the growing need for advocacy services among individuals with autism.

Improving Technical Assistance and Evaluation. The Clinton-Allard bill will enable the Secretary of Health and Human Services to establish a National Technical Assistance Center for Autism Treatments, Interventions and Services to serve as a resource for parents and service providers. The organization will have experience in training, research translation, and service provisions. It will also analyze the grant programs under this Act and provide information about these programs to the public.

Source: Senator Hillary Clinton

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