Lawmakers are looking to secure over $1 billion in the coming years for federal efforts to address the needs of people with autism, including additional support for adults on the spectrum.

A bill introduced late last week in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives would reauthorize the nation’s primary autism legislation known as the Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education and Support, or Autism CARES, Act.

The measure, H.R. 1058, would ensure continued federal support for everything from autism research to prevalence tracking, screening, professional training and other initiatives.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Without action from Congress, the current incarnation of the Autism CARES Act — and the $260 million annually associated with it — is set to expire Sept. 30.

The proposal includes an extra $368 million over the current funding level to renew the law for the next five years. And, it features a greater emphasis on the needs of adults with autism by adding the phrase “across the lifespan” to several provisions.

“Our new legislation will reauthorize vital federal research on earlier interventions for children with autism and expands funding for critical research, education, housing and other programs that assist the countless children and adults on the spectrum, and their families,” said Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who introduced the House version with Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa. “The bill will also help ensure that the estimated 50,000 persons with autism each year who ‘age out’ of critical assistance programs and enter adulthood are supported, as many individuals and communities are unprepared for this transition.”

In addition to continued funding for current federal programs, the bill to reauthorize the Autism CARES Act directs the National Institutes of Health to conduct research aimed at improving outcomes for kids and adults with autism. Similarly, the bill would amend existing law to “reflect the need for research, surveillance, education, detection and intervention for individuals with autism spectrum disorder of all ages, not just children,” lawmakers said.

The renewal would also require officials at the Department of Health and Human Services to report to Congress on the progress of federal autism efforts and on the health and well-being of kids and adults with autism and other developmental disabilities. And, the legislation would direct the Health Resources and Services Administration to issue grants for developmental-behavioral pediatricians in underserved areas.

The Senate version of the bill was introduced by Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo.