Schaer, Singleton, McKeon, Spencer, Benson & Lagana Autism Awareness Bills Approved by Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) - Two bills sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gary Schaer, John McKeon, Grace Spencer, Troy Singleton, Daniel Benson and Joseph Lagana to compile Autism resources onto a website and allow residents to donate to Autism programs at tax time were released by an Assembly panel on Thursday.

New Jersey has the nation's highest reported rates of autism according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released earlier this year- one of out of every 48 children. The national rate is one in 68 children.

(TRENTON) - Two bills sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gary Schaer, John McKeon, Grace Spencer, Troy Singleton, Daniel Benson and Joseph Lagana to compile Autism resources onto a website and allow residents to donate to Autism programs at tax time were released by an Assembly panel on Thursday.

New Jersey has the nation's highest reported rates of autism according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released earlier this year- one of out of every 48 children. The national rate is one in 68 children.

"Navigating autism resources and programs is a major challenge for families' dealing with this disability," said Schaer (D-Bergen, Passaic). "We can empower families by providing clear information on Autism resources and support programs available to them in New Jersey."

The first bill (A-1042) makes certain information available to the public that will promote autism awareness and enhance efforts at early detection and treatment of children with autism spectrum disorders. This bill is sponsored by Assembly members Gary Schaer, John McKeon, Grace Spencer, Troy Singleton and Daniel Benson.

"Finding the right doctors, organizations or support groups can be overwhelming," said McKeon (D-Essex, Morris). "With this bill, we can centralize the important information and help families help themselves."

"Many families are dealing with the complexities of autism," said Spencer (D-Essex). "They will need help every step of the way to meet the urgent challenges of housing, medical care and vocational training. Placing the information they require to face these challenges in one place that is easily accessible gives residents a place to at least begin."

"Autism resources have the potential to radically improve the quality of life for New Jerseyans with autism and their loved ones," said Benson (D-Mercer, Middlesex). "There should be a site where they are easily accessed for families who will benefit from them the most."

The second bill (A-3149) -- sponsored by Assemblymen Troy Singleton, Gary Schaer, and Joseph Lagana -- would provide for voluntary tax contributions by taxpayers on gross income tax returns to support autistic programs.
"Residents should be allowed to contribute directly to autism programs through their tax returns," said Singleton (D-Burlington). "It's an opportunity to give back to the organizations that give so much to the many who are dealing with autism."

"Autism programs deserve the support for the work they do," said Lagana (D-Bergen, Passaic). "With this bill, residents can take part in helping others whose lives are affected by autism."

Specifically, the bill requires the Commissioner of Health to establish the "New Jersey Autism Website" in consultation with various autism advocacy and service organizations in the state. A link would be included on the Department of Health.

The bills were approved by the Assembly Women and Children Committee.