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 Legislative and Policy Corner

Autism CARES Act, Newborn Screening Saves Lives Act and Traumatic Brain Injury Reauthorization Act Advance
On Jun. 24, the House of Representatives unanimously passed H.R. 4631, the Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education, and Support Act of 2014 or "Autism CARES Act." This legislation reauthorizes the programs that were previously passed as the Combating Autism Act. The legislation would authorize $1.3 billion for autism programs over five years through for the Developmental Disabilities Surveillance and Research Program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); Autism Education, Early Detection, and Intervention; and research grants through the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The Autism CARES Act makes reforms to the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) to ensure coordination is maximized, and increases accountability by requiring the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to designate an individual charged with implementing the IACC annual strategic plan and report to Congress how they are doing so. In addition, the bill requires a report from the HHS Secretary on best practices for transitioning adolescents.

Because bipartisan agreement had previously been reached between the House and Senate, we can expect this bill to move swiftly to passage into law. A press release from the primary bill sponsor, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), can be found here and includes a link to the bill text.

On the same day, the House also unanimously passed H.R. 1281, the Newborn Screening Saves Lives Act. This legislation reauthorizes a number of programs including Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grants to states to expand improve screening programs, educate parents and health care providers, and improve follow-up care for infants with a condition detected through newborn screening as well as the HRSA Clearinghouse for Newborn Screening Information and the National Newborn Screening and Genetic Resource Center. In addition this bill reauthorizes the CDC Newborn Screening Quality Assurance Program (NSQAP); a CDC grant program to provide technical assistance to state newborn screening programs to track outcomes of infants identified through newborn screening; and the NIH Hunter Kelly Newborn Screening program. A press release from the primary bill sponsor, Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), can be found here.

Finally, the House also passed H.R. 1098, the Traumatic Brian Injury (TBI) Reauthorization Act, which provides grants through NIH and CDC to conduct research into and surveillance of TBI. Currently, funding is also available through HRSA to assist states in developing and expanding service delivery capacity for individuals with traumatic brain injury and their families. However, the bill that recently passed the House would give the HHS Secretary authority to move this program out of the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB), where it is currently housed. For further information, a press release from the primary bill sponsor, Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ), can be found here.