Health and Human Services


Higher Autism Numbers Announced as Feds Introduce Early Screening Program

(Getty Images)

(Getty Images)

Every two years, the federal government announces the rate of autism. This is what NPR’s shots blog had to say about today’s numbers, which show 1 in 68 children in the U.S. have an autism spectrum disorder.

That’s a remarkable jump from just two years ago, when the figure was 1 in 88 and an even bigger jump from 2007, when it was just 1 in 150.

But officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials say the agency’s skyrocketing estimates don’t necessarily mean that kids are more likely to have autism now than they were 10 years ago.

“It may be that we’re getting better at identifying autism,” says Coleen Boyle, director of the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental disabilities.

For one thing, the prevalence seems to vary in different communities and among children of different races. The CDC found white children are far more likely to be identified with autism, even though scientists don’t believe the rates are truly different between whites, Hispanics or blacks.

“What we need to focus on is getting more people identified so they can get the supports they need,” Shannon Rosa, Bay Area parent advocate.

That means that the discrepancy lies in the diagnosis and services available in different communities. The shots blog points out the work of George Washington University anthropologist Roy Richard Grinker.

Along with other researchers, he studied autism prevalence in South Korea. They found that 1 in 38 children there met the criteria for autism spectrum disorder. Grinker thinks that the US number is likely closer to the one they saw in South Korea. Which means that in two years the CDC estimate will likely tick higher still.

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Governor’s New Budget Slices — Again — Into Health Care

(Max Whittaker: Getty Images)

(Max Whittaker: Getty Images)

Governor Jerry Brown released his revised budget this morning and the cuts to health and human services are significant. Since the economy soured in 2007, state cuts to health and services programs have exceeded $15 billion .

Today the governor announced:

  • An additional $400 million in cuts to Medi-Cal, mostly to hospitals and nursing homes
  • Reductions to the “Healthy Families” program which covers children, effecting their access to health care. Potential savings are $48 million
  • Reducing In-Home Support Services hours by seven percent for a savings of $99 million
Anthony Wright of Health Access, a statewide advocacy group said these cuts would effect virtually all Californians. “These ugly cuts are a body blow to the health system on which we all rely,” Wright said in a statement. “These are the wrong cuts at the wrong time, during an economic downturn when Californians need this help the most, and when we need to get ready for health reform to maximize the benefit for our families and our state.”

In a conference call with reporters today, Secretary of Health and Human Services Diana Dooley said the cuts to her agency were inevitable. “The problem we have and always have in health and human services is this is where most of the spending is. The spending is in education and health and human services to a very large degree, and the only place you can cut back are the places where you are spending.”

The governor’s revised budget depends on voters passing his tax increase proposals expected to land on the November ballot.  A poll last month by the Public Policy Institute of California showed 54 percent support for the governor’s plans — but tax increases require a two-thirds majority to pass. If his tax proposals do not pass, more cuts will be necessary to balance the state’s budget.