Helping HANDS for Autism Act Introduced in the House
Bill provides for lifespan autism services and awareness
Members of the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a companion to the Helping HANDS for Autism Act this week.
The Helping HANDS for Autism Act (HR 6282) is a three-part legislative package designed to support families dealing with autism spectrum disorders, increase awareness among first responders and public safety officials and provide housing options and services for adults with autism. It was introduced by Reps. Kay Granger (R-TX), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Mike Doyle (D-PA), Dan Burton (R-IN) and Ruben Hinojosa (D-TX). The bill is a companion to S 2950, introduced in the Senate last April.
An estimated 30 million people in the world have an autism spectrum disorder, 1.5 million in America alone. Every day in America, 60 families learn their child has autism. These families face challenges of care, support, education, financial hardship and medical and health care issues that make autism a national public health issue. Though there is no cure, autism is treatable and individuals with autism have tremendous potential.
“The Helping HANDS Act is an important step toward getting families the support they need today,” said Autism Society of America President and CEO Lee Grossman. “It provides for services from just after diagnosis through adulthood, is the most critical need today.”
What the Bill Does:
- Creates a grant program to provide “autism navigator” services to help families navigate the web of services and care they need. Navigators will help guide families to current health, education, housing and social services that are often available to individuals on the autism spectrum. Too often, families feel overwhelmed after diagnosis and often lost as to where to turn for help. The program will help connect families to important treatment options soon after diagnosis, help families identify education options, and help coordinate individuals’ care and community support.
- Provides for the development, demonstration and dissemination of a standard curriculum for the training of first responders (police, fire departments, emergency medical technicians and other volunteers) in assisting individuals with autism and other cognitive behavioral disabilities. It provides grants to states and local governments to support training of first responders. People with developmental disabilities, including autism, have up to seven times more contact with law enforcement officers than others, according to an article in the F.B.I. Law Enforcement Bulletin in April 2001. That is why training is so important. Something as simple as first responders turning off flashing lights and sirens on a police car could make the difference between a peaceful or chaotic encounter.
- Creates a HUD task force comprised of appropriate national and state autism advocacy groups, community-based organizations and parents who are charged with developing a housing demonstration grant program for adults with autism. The goal of the grant program is to provide individualized housing and services to adults with autism spectrum disorders.