Assembly Health Committee Hears Requests for Additional State, Federal Funds for Autism Research, Care
The Assembly Health Committee yesterday heard testimony from parents and scientists who asked lawmakers to protect state-administered regional diagnostic and service centers for autism from budget reductions, the Los Angeles Times reports. The number of autism cases in California increased 273% between 1988 and 1998, an average of nine diagnoses per day (Ingram, Los Angeles Times, 11/20). According to witnesses, the "increase in autism cases is straining state resources and will require an infusion of federal funds" for research and care, the Sacramento Bee reports (Rojas, Sacramento Bee, 11/20). Witnesses also testified that the state should not reduce funds for the centers, administered by the Department of Developmental Services, despite an estimated $21.1 billion budget deficit for the next fiscal year. Rick Rollens, co-founder of the Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders Institute at the University of California-Davis, said that the increased number of autism cases in the state has "overwhelmed" the centers (Los Angeles Times, 11/20). Chuck Gardner, co-founder of the MIND Institute, said that the facility requires additional funds, although "not necessarily from the state." He added, "Autism doesn't stop at the state line, and the work we're doing has national and international implications. It doesn't seem equitable that the state of California should bear the whole cost" (Sacramento Bee, 11/20).
Assembly member Dario Frommer (D-Los Feliz), chair of the committee, said he hopes to secure additional funds for autism research and care from federal and private sources (Los Angeles Times, 11/20). He added that he would introduce a resolution to encourage Gov. Gray Davis (D) to "aggressively seek" funds for autism research. In addition, Frommer said he will work to establish a task force to improve collaboration among state agencies that provide autism services and to appoint an advocate for parents of autistic children, the Contra Costa Times reports. He said that the advocate would work to reduce the "finger-pointing and buck-passing" among state agencies. "It's very frustrating for parents going from agency to agency, place to place and not having someone to say, 'Here's how the pieces of the puzzle fit together and here's what you can do,'" Frommer said (Kleffman, Contra Costa Times, 11/20).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.