TRENTON – A bill package sponsored by Senators Loretta Weinberg and Joseph Coniglio which would improve New Jersey’s support infrastructure for families and individuals coping with autism was unanimously approved by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee today.
“In the most recent federal statistics, New Jersey’s rate of new autism cases is the highest in the nation,” said Senator Weinberg, D-Bergen. “New Jersey needs to increase the assistance we provide to families living with autism, as well as contribute to our collective scientific understanding of the autism spectrum disorders. As more and more children are born with autism every year, we have an obligation to provide those kids the support programs they need, and work to decrease the incidence of autism in New Jersey and the world.”
“Autism has reached epidemic proportions, not just here in New Jersey, but across the nation, and the world,” said Senator Coniglio, D-Bergen, a member of the Senate Budget panel. “One child in 94 will be born with autism, and we have to do everything we can to support these kids and decrease the incidence of the disease. New Jersey should make the most of its research resources, and work to eliminate autism as a threat to our kids and grandkids.”
The first bill, S-2568, sponsored by Senators Weinberg and Ellen Karcher, would require the Early Intervention Program in the Department of Health and Senior Services to address the specific needs of children with autism spectrum disorders and their families and begin collecting statewide information regarding autism incidence in New Jersey. The bill would require the EI program to develop guidelines to evaluate infants and toddlers for autism, and ensure the timely referral by health care professionals for early intervention services.
According to Senator Weinberg, early intervention has helped children born with other developmental disabilities make better progress in overcoming their disabilities.
“Early Intervention has performed miracles in helping other children cope with developmental disabilities,” said Senator Weinberg. “We should turn this valuable program towards helping kids with autism get the sort of intensive treatment needed to ensure future education and treatment programs can succeed. Early Intervention can make a world of difference in helping kids with autism overcome many of the social and behavioral roadblocks they’ll encounter later in life, and should be used to give autistic children a chance to excel.”
The second bill in the package, S-2569, sponsored by Senators Weinberg and Coniglio, would extend funding for autism medical research and treatment. The bill would amend current law, removing the five-year sunset provision for a $1 surcharge on each motor vehicle moving violation to be deposited in the “Autism Medical Research and Treatment Fund.” This bill would ensure permanent funding for autism research into the future.
“New Jersey has led the way in so many advances in medical research,” said Senator Coniglio. “As the nation’s pharmaceutical capital and host to a number of important bio-medical research facilities, New Jersey stands to make an impact on how we view and treat the autism spectrum disorders. We need to continue our State’s fiscal support of autism research, to support the valuable private research being conducted in the Garden State and help effectively prevent and treat autism.”
Both bills now head to the full Senate for consideration. They were approved by the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, along with other bills addressing autism, in May.