Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Christie Appoints Four To State Autism Panel

Yesterday, Governor Chris Christie named four new members to the Governor’s Council for Medical Research and Treatment of Autism. The Council, charged with creating a Center for Excellence, will coordinate research and apply and advance best practices in the understanding, prevention, evaluation and treatment of autism, enhancing the lives of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Additionally, they awarded $5 million in basic science research grants to study the causes, triggers and treatment of ASDs. The Council's membership is made up of representatives from academic institutions, autism and healthcare organizations and includes individuals with autism, or family members.

“New Jersey will continue to lead the nation and serve as an example of how the public and private sectors can work together to assist individuals and families affected by autism,” said Governor Chris Christie. “The First Lady and I have worked together to highlight the resources available throughout the state for families, and the Governor’s Council for Medical Research and Treatment of Autism will continue to play an important role in autism awareness. Each of these nominees brings a wealth of experience from within the health, direct service and advocacy communities, and will be an invaluable resource. I’d like to thank each of the new members for their willingness to serve and ensure New Jersey remains a leader in autism awareness.”

Governor Christie’s appointments to the Governor’s Council for Medical Research and Treatment of Autism include BrosUnitedD (BUD) Mentorship Program co-founder and Program Director Matthew P. Cortland (Marlton, Burlington); retired Superintendent of the Atlantic County Special Services School District Barbara J. Morvay (Northfield, Atlantic); Parents Of Autistic Children (POAC) Executive Director Gary Weitzen (Lakewood, Ocean); and Bancroft Vice President of Clinical Services and Chief Medical Officer Caroline Eggerding, M.D. (Haddonfield, Camden). Each member will serve a 3-year term and will serve without compensation. These direct appointments by the Governor do not require the advice and consent of the New Jersey State Senate.

Autism is a spectrum of disorders that is complex and lifelong. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), nationwide, it is estimated that autism occurs in 1 out of every 110 births while in New Jersey, the prevalence rate is reported to be 1 in 94. Most often diagnosed during the first three years of life, autism is four times more prevalent in boys than in girls and affects families of all races, ethnicities and socio-economic groups.

Autism awareness is an advocacy area embraced by First Lady Mary Pat Christie to bring greater understanding of the developmental disability. This March, Governor and Mrs. Christie convened a roundtable discussion at Drumthwacket with parents of children with autism, educators and other key stakeholders.

Last August, the Christie Administration also created the Office on Autism within the Department of Human Services to improve and enhance the services now available within state government. Since the creation of the office, Human Services Commissioner Jennifer Velez and then Acting Commissioner of Health and Senior Services Mary O’Dowd, joined by Mrs. Christie, unveiled two new State resources, Autism, Navigating through the Maze and its accompanying website, to assist families faced with the diagnosis of autism.

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