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ASSEMBLY PANEL RELEASES SECOND PHASE OF LANDMARK AUTISM MEAS

 
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 01, 2008 2:03 pm    Post subject: ASSEMBLY PANEL RELEASES SECOND PHASE OF LANDMARK AUTISM MEAS Reply with quote

ASSEMBLY PANEL RELEASES SECOND PHASE OF LANDMARK AUTISM MEASURES

ASSEMBLY PANEL RELEASES SECOND PHASE OF LANDMARK AUTISM SUPPORT MEASURES
Measures Would Assist With Independent Living for Adults with Autism;
Create Office for Autism Services; Establish Emergency ID Card for
Autistic Residents

(TRENTON) - The Assembly Health and Senior Services
Committee today released a second phase of legislation aimed at
enhancing support for autistic adults, streamlining autism-related
services, and improving the delivery of health care for New Jersey's
autistic residents.

The six-bill package - spearheaded by Assembly Speaker
Joseph J. Roberts, Jr. (D-Camden), Assemblywoman Joan Voss (D-Bergen),
and Assemblyman Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) - seeks to build on the
foundation the Assembly laid last year with the enactment of seven new
laws that have made New Jersey a national leader in promoting autism
awareness.

"New Jersey is forging ahead by taking a multidimensional approach to
tackle some of the most significant challenges facing individuals with
autism and their families," said Roberts (D-Camden). "We cannot
legislate a cure for autism, but we can and must ensure that those
suffering from this puzzling disorder and their families are not pushed
to the margins."

New Jersey has the nation's highest reported rates of autism according
to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - one of out
of every 94 children. The national rate is one out of 150 children.

"Finding a cause and cure for autism has baffled scientists and doctors
for years, and navigating the myriad services and offices that aim to
help autistic individuals has proven equally baffling for too many
families," said Voss (D-Bergen), whose son suffers from Asperger's
Syndrome, a form of autism. "New Jerseyans living with autism and their
families should never feel as if they are facing this disorder alone."

The lawmakers said it is crucial that the state take a comprehensive
approach that includes both autistic adults and children, especially
since the swelling numbers of children diagnosed with autism since 1991
will begin aging out of the education system over the next several
years.

"With the nation's highest rates of children with autism, New Jersey
also will find itself home to the nation's highest rates of autistic
adults," said Prieto. "Autism has reached epidemic proportions in New
Jersey. This condition holds victims in its grip for their entire
lives. We need to ensure that they have help every step of the way to
meet the urgent challenges of housing, medical care and vocational
training."

The measures released by the committee would:

* Require health insurers to cover certain autism-related
therapies and treatment, known as applied behavioral analysis (A-2238,
released 7-0-3), sponsored by Prieto, Roberts, and Voss;

* Establish a new office to handle autism-related issues in the
Department of the Public advocate to pair families with services
(A-2256, released 7-1-2), sponsored by Voss, Prieto, Roberts and Gary
Schaer (D-Bergen) ;

* Require the department of Health and Senior Services to create
a one-stop shop autism Web site to make it easier for families in-need
of assistance (A-2257, released 9-0-1), sponsored by Schaer, Roberts,
Vas and John F. McKeon (D-Essex);

* Create a special identification card in the case of emergencies
for autistic residents who may speak or who have trouble communicating
(A-2258, released 10-0), sponsored by Connie Wagner (D-Bergen), Voss,
Prieto and Roberts;

* Support choice in housing by supporting autistic adults who
have aged out of the juvenile system living independently with
assistance (A-2259, released 10-0), sponsored by Voss, Schaer, Wagner
and Roberts;

* Urge the establishment of new peer-programs to partner students
and autistic classmates to foster social interaction among all students
in middle and high school (AR-105, released 10-0), sponsored by McKeon,
Wagner, Roberts and Schaer.

The cause of autism remains unknown. It is a disorder that impairs the
central nervous system, compromising an individual's ability to listen,
speak, and form social relationships. The condition often is marked
with highly focused, repetitive behavior.

Speaker Roberts crafted the initial autism package last year in
response to The Record of Hackensack's six-day series called "In
Autism's Grip" that cited the state's high autism incidence rates and
the plight of families affected by autism.

"This second phase of measures will ensure that New Jersey is
approaching autism in a holistic, comprehensive way," said Speaker
Roberts. "Autistic residents have a right to effective treatment."

The lawmakers said that the immediate investment in autism services
would lower the long-term costs of providing health care to autistic
residents.

"It's time that we centralize autism resources and services to ensure
that the families and individuals who are in desperate need of these
programs know where to find help," said Voss. "Autism resources have
the potential to radically improve the quality of life for New Jerseyans
with autism and their loved ones."

The bills now may be voted on by the full Assembly, with the exception
of A-2238 which has been referred to the Assembly Appropriations
Committee for further review.

--30--

Alescia Marie Teel
Press Secretary
New Jersey General Assembly
Majority Office
(609) 292-7065 Phone
(609) 292-2386 Fax
ateel@njleg.org
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