Saturday, June 23, 2007

Set of Five Autism-Related Bills Head to New Jersey Governor

New Jersey lawmakers finished passing a set of five autism-related bills on June 21. The measures include:
  • A $500,000 program to establish a registry of autism spectrum disorders in the state.
  • A program to provide instruction in autism and other developmental disorders awareness and methods of teaching to help students with these disabilities.
  • Increased early intervention services for young children with autism.
  • Extends funding for autism-related medical research and treatment at $4 million per year, paid through a $1 surcharge on motor vehicle and traffic violations.
  • Establishing a New Jersey Adults with Autism Task Force.
The bills now await a decision by Gov. Jon S. Corzine.

The release earlier this year of a government study about the prevalence of autism cases -- an estimated 1 in 150 births, rather than 1 in 166 births previously estimated -- caught the attention of New Jersey policy-makers when they saw the Garden State had the highest incidence, about 1 in 94 births, of the 14 states surveyed in the Centers for Disease Control study. (For more on the CDC study, see this article.) Within weeks, New Jersey legislators were working on a set of bills, including the important but often-neglected issue of how to better serve adults with autism. (For background, see here.)

"New Jersey has taken a significant step forward in its efforts to solve the puzzle of autism," Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts Jr., D-Camden, told the Associated Press. "For families whose loved ones are locked in the grasp of this disorder, today's actions send a signal that New Jersey will put its vast resources to use on their behalf." You can read the Associated Press article here via, the website of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News.

More information on the bills is available at the New Jersey Legislature's website. You can use the bill numbers below at the legislature's home page to search for more details. Links to the bills as they were introduced are below:

1. Statewide autism registry, passed by the Assembly 80-0, Senate 37-0.
Assembly Bill 2306 (A2306), also known as Senate Bill 2723 (S2723), find the original version as filed here.

2. More instruction in awareness and teaching methods for students with autism and other developmental disorders, passed Assembly 80-0, Senate 37-0.
Bill A4055, S2558. Find the original version as filed here.

3. Early intervention program to address needs of children with autism, passed Assembly 80-0, Senate 37-0.
Bill A4056, S2568. Find the original version as filed here.

4. State task force for adults with autism, passed Assembly 79-0, Senate 36-0.
Bill A4057, S2559. Find the original version as filed here.

5. Extended funding for autism medical research and treatment. Passed Assembly 75-4, Senate 36-0.
A 4059, S2569. Find the bill as originally filed here.

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