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Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
September 24, 2018

Shereef Elnahal

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Murphy Administration Announces $4 Million for New Jersey Autism Center of Excellence

New Jersey Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal today announced $4 million in grant funding to Rutgers University to create the New Jersey Autism Center of Excellence (NJACE).

The Autism Center of Excellence, which is funded through the Governor’s Council for Medical Research and Treatment of Autism, will advance research into the causes, diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in New Jersey and provide a statewide system of training and continuing education programs for healthcare professions to improve the clinical care of those with ASD.

“Autism affects one in 59 children in United States and one in 34 children has the disorder in New Jersey,” said Dr. Elnahal. “Given that New Jersey rates are higher than the national average, it is critical that we invest funding to better understand ASD and ensure improved treatment for individuals with ASD.”

The NJ Autism Center of Excellence at Rutgers University, in partnership with Children’s Specialized Hospital, is a new, statewide center established to promote research, professional training and treatment for people with ASD. The NJACE will get $800,000 each year for five years.

“The new center is positioned to become a national model for programs that integrate autism research, clinical care and education,” said Elizabeth Torres, an associate professor in psychology at Rutgers–New Brunswick, who will lead the NJACE.

The goal of the center is to establish and promote best practices and autism awareness, share information on successes and challenges to research, and educate researchers and clinicians. The NJACE will help address the unmet needs of the autistic population through a collaborative and comprehensive network of healthcare providers, researchers, people with ASD and their families, biopharmaceutical companies, universities, corporations, businesses and other autism centers.

This morning, Rutgers held its first NJACE meeting of its Professional and Community Advisory Boards at Children’s Specialized Hospital in New Brunswick.

Healthcare provider training will be conducted by Children’s Specialized Hospital as part of this grant funding led by Jill Harris, Director of Research Development and Coordinator of Autism Services at Children’s Specialized Hospital. James Millonig, an associate professor in neuroscience and cell biology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, will lead autism research for the NJACE.

“The members of the NJ Governor’s Council for Medical Research and Treatment of Autism are committed to the next steps in order to advance and disseminate the understanding, treatment, and management of ASD," said Council Chair Caroline Eggerding, M.D. “We look forward to working with The NJ Autism Center of Excellence to carry out the vision of coordinated innovative transformation research, treatment, and professional education.”

Since 2008, the Council has provided more than $39 million in research grants.

In a new change, New Jersey’s Medicaid program will cover autism spectrum disorder benefits. New Jersey previously covered only select services for a small population in a pilot program, but it's estimated more than 10,000 youth in our state have an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis.

“This gives young people with Medicaid coverage access to appropriate screening and treatment,” said Department of Human Services Commissioner Carole Johnson. “It’s another investment by Governor Murphy in building a stronger future for our state.”

Follow New Jersey Health Commissioner Elnahal on Twitter.

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Last Reviewed: 9/24/2018