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Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Combating Autism Act: Overview and Funding

Amalia K. Corby-Edwards
Analyst in Public Health and Epidemiology

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are general terms for a group of developmental disabilities that cause impairments in social skills and communication, and are often characterized by certain atypical behaviors. The federal government has a role in the financing (through Medicaid and State Children’s Health Insurance Programs) and delivery (through funding of developmental disabilities programming in schools, Title V Maternal and Child Health funding, and other sources) of treatment for ASD. The number of autism cases and their appropriate diagnosis and treatment affect federal and state expenditures. As such, Congress has shown interest in financing research on ASD prevalence, causes, and optimal treatment for individuals with ASD.

On September 26, 2011, the 112
th Congress passed the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act (CARA, P.L. 112-32), which reauthorized funding for autism research authorized under the Combating Autism Act of 2006 (CAA, P.L. 109-416). The CAA was enacted to address public and congressional concern with growing rates of autism; to increase existing autism research funding authorizations; and to stimulate state-level coordination of health, education, and disability programs. The CAA authorizes funding for ASD surveillance, research, and education at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The CAA authorizes funding for CDC to administer a grant program for states and other entities to conduct surveillance on ASD and developmental disabilities, and to establish regional centers of excellence in ASD epidemiology. The CAA also authorizes funding for HRSA to support autism education, intervention, and early detection. NIH is authorized under the CAA to conduct and fund basic scientific research on autism and other developmental disabilities. In addition, NIH is tasked with the coordination of all research, screening, intervention, and education efforts through the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee.

The Combating Autism Act authorized appropriations for these activities from FY2007 through FY2011. The Combating Autism Reauthorization Act of 2011 extends authorizations of appropriations at FY2011 levels for FY2012 through FY2014. Funding for research authorized by CARA is discretionary and subject to the annual appropriations process. Full-year appropriations for FY2013 have yet to be enacted. However, a six-month government-wide continuing resolution (CR) was signed into law on September 28, 2012 (P.L. 112-175), which generally maintained funding for discretionary programs at their FY2012 levels, increased by 0.612%.

This report presents an overview of the CAA and CARA, HHS funding and activities under the CAA and CARA for FY2007 through FY2013, other federal activities related to autism, and selected issues for Congress.

Date of Report: December 27, 2012
Number of Pages: 16
Order Number: R42369
Price: $29.95

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