SPEAKER ROBERTS’ ADDITIONAL MEASURES
TO HELP N.J. COMBAT NATION’S HIGHEST AUTISM RATE RECEIVE FINAL LEGISLATIVE APPROVAL
Two New Bills Meant to Help Adults with Autism, Developmental Disabilities
(TRENTON) – Legislation Assembly Speaker Joseph J. Roberts Jr. is sponsoring to further help New Jersey combat its highest-in-the-nation autism prevalence received final legislative approval on Monday.
One bill (A-4225) would permit adults with autism to voluntarily place their names on a new state registry that will help New Jersey improve its planning and services for those with autism. It was approved by the Assembly in December and 38-0 Monday by the Senate.
The other (A-4226) would revise the state’s Law Against Discrimination to specifically prohibit discriminatory acts against people with autism. It also was approved by the Assembly in December and 38-0 by the Senate on Monday.
The bills now go to the Governor.
Under Speaker Roberts’ leadership, the Legislature and Gov. Jon S. Corzine have already shepherded into law numerous measures to raise awareness about autism and encourage early diagnosis and early intervention.
“We’ve taken several strong steps to improve the lives of those with autism and developmental disabilities, but our fight is constantly evolving and our work against these lifelong disabilities is never done,” said Roberts (D-Camden). “While much of the focus has been on helping children, we must also focus on the growing need to provide a higher quality of life to adults with autism and developmental disabilities.”
A Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study based on research in 14 states found one in every 150 children diagnosed with autism, with New Jersey having the highest rate in the country with one in 94.
“These bills represent common sense steps forward meant to ensure adults with autism and developmental disabilities are given equal chance to succeed as they grow older,” Roberts said. “That’s crucial, not only to their lives, but to society as a whole. It will cost taxpayers severely if adults with autism do not get the services they need to live as independently as possible.”
The bills are recommendations of the Adults with Autism Task Force that was created under a law sponsored by Roberts.
The first bill would amend the Autism Registry law to include adults with autism on an opt-in basis, both to enhance future planning and ensure the proper delivery of services to children and adults with autism spectrum disorders.
The information would allow experts to better analyze contributing factors to the cause of the increase in autism spectrum disorders. Adults could register themselves, or be listed by their health care and service providers.
The state’s Law Against Discrimination prohibits discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations, and Roberts’ new bill would specify that it also includes those with autism spectrum disorders.
The Speaker praised the work of the task force, which included state officials and advocates.
“The task force should be commended for its hard work and dedication on behalf of those with autism and developmental disabilities,” Roberts said. “Their work helped lay the groundwork for continuing our efforts to combat these disorders that affect so many people in New Jersey.”
The two bills are also sponsored by Assembly members L. Grace Spencer (D-Essex, Joan Voss (D-Bergen), Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) and John Wisniewski (D-Middlesex).
Other autism measures signed into law include bills that:
• Made New Jersey the 15th state to require health insurers to cover treatments for autism and other developmental disabilities. It was sponsored by Roberts, Assemblywoman Joan Voss (D-Bergen) and Assemblyman Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson).
• Established a centralized statewide autism registry. It was sponsored Assemblyman John F. McKeon (D-Essex), Roberts, Assemblyman Nelson Albano (D-Cumberland), and Voss;
• Trains teachers in autism awareness. It was sponsored by Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen), Voss, Roberts, now-Sen. Jim Whelan (D-Atlantic), Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) and former Sen. Ellen Karcher (D-Monmouth).
• Improved New Jersey’s system for detecting symptoms of autism in young children. It was sponsored by Assemblymen Herb Conaway, M.D. (D-Burlington/Camden), Roberts, Vainieri Huttle, Assemblyman Louis D. Greenwald (D-Camden), former Assemblyman Michael Panter (D-Monmouth), Weinberg and Karcher.
• Created the new expert panel to study the needs of autistic adults. It was sponsored by Roberts, Voss, Assemblyman Gary Schaer (D-Passaic), McKeon, Weinberg and Karcher.
• Extends funding for autism medical research and treatment. It was sponsored by Roberts, Voss, Greenwald, Whelan and Weinberg.
• Restructured the Governor’s Council for Medical Research and Treatment of Autism. It was sponsored by Roberts, Voss, Schaer, McKeon, Weinberg and Sen. Joseph F. Vitale (D-Middlesex)
• Established a developmental disabilities awareness program for first responders. It was sponsored by Roberts, Assemblymen Paul Moriarty (D-Gloucester), Frederick Scalera (D-Bergen), Weinberg and Sen. Robert M. Gordon (D-Bergen).
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SPEAKER ROBERTS’ ADDITIONAL MEASURES