Federal Panel Wants Autism Funding Doubled
A federal autism committee is calling for a twofold increase in funds dedicated to researching the developmental disorder by 2020.
The Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, a government advisory panel comprised of federal officials and members of the autism community, voted last week to request that public and private dollars for autism research double.
The committee wants to see funding reach $685 million in 2020, roughly twice the $343 million spent in 2015. Under the plan, spending would rise 14.85 percent each year in order to meet the goal.
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“I think it’s crazy not to be aspirational,” said Louis Reichardt, a committee member and director of the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative. “We certainly won’t get the funding that we expect, but one should at least make the case considering the huge number of opportunities.”
Federal funding consistently represents the largest chunk of autism research dollars. Committee members noted that funding for autism — which is estimated to affect 1 in 68 kids — is far below the $1.2 billion spent on Alzheimer’s disease and roughly $3 billion for AIDS.
The IACC is charged with establishing federal priorities for autism research through a regularly-updated strategic plan that addresses everything from diagnosis to understanding the biology of autism and efforts to improve services across the lifespan.
The budget request will be included in the plan with a note indicating that even if the funding target is achieved, it would still be inadequate to accomplish all that the strategic plan calls for.
“It’s a reasonable and aggressive start … that we can spend wisely and efficiently,” said Joshua Gordon, the director of the National Institute of Mental Health and chair of the IACC.
There are no guarantees that lawmakers will oblige the request, but committee members determined that there’s no harm in aiming high.
“This will be something that funders read, that Congress reads, and takes into consideration along with all of the other considerations they account for,” said Susan Daniels, director of the NIMH’s Office of Autism Research Coordination.