The Honorable Orrin Grant Hatch
104 Hart Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Re: SB 1094
On Wednesday, August 3 at 10:00 am in room 430 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee will be meeting to discuss SB 1094, the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act of 2011 (CARA). This bill proposes to extend the original sunset date (September 30, 2011) of the Combating Autism Act of 2006 (CAA) for another three years. As you are a member of the HELP Committee, I am writing to ask you to attend this meeting and to vote in favor of SB 1094.
There is still a lot we don't know about autism, and continued research is desperately needed to better understand Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) and discover ways to help those who are afflicted with them. Our own University of Utah has made significant strides in autism research. This research would be severely curtailed without the funding that SB 1094 would authorize.
I understand that there is currently a major focus on federal spending, and that there are many who would be inclined to vote no on this bill, feeling that it cannot be afforded. I am of the opinion that while we do need to cut back on many programs, we cannot afford NOT to fund this research. Only a small percentage of autistic individuals eventually become able to hold jobs; most are financially dependent on family members or the state for their entire lives. Since many states (including Utah) do not require insurance companies to cover autism therapy, many families go into severe debt to pay for therapy for their child(ren). Frequently, these families end up in bankruptcy and living on welfare as a direct result of these expenses. Add to that the lost productivity from these individuals and their loved ones who must care for them, and the expense to our nation due to autism is immense.
Research can help us find more effective and less expensive therapies. Beyond the great personal good this research can do, from a purely financial standpoint every individual who is recovered and becomes self-sufficient will be an asset to the state instead of a burden. (Additionally, if Utah were to require insurance companies to cover autism therapies, families would be able to afford therapies for their children and fewer would end up on welfare.)
My 5-year-old daughter, [NAME REDACTED], has autism, and my 3-year-old son, [NAME REDACTED], has Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD-NOS), which is also considered an ASD. I would do anything I could to help them to live full, productive lives. This research would be valuable to them and to people with ASDs across our nation. I respectfully ask that you please attend next Wednesday's meeting and vote yes on SB 1094.
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter.
Robert J. Walker