Report Title:

Autism Center



Establishes the Hawaii autism center of excellence (center) within the University of Hawaii school of medicine; makes an appropriation. (SD1)



S.B. NO.



S.D. 1






relating to autism.



SECTION 1. The legislature finds that:

(1) Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears in the first three years of life, and is the result of a neurological disorder that affects the functioning of the brain;

(2) Autism and its associated behaviors, including but not limited to, significant impairments in areas of communication, language development, social skills and interaction, and leisure or normal play activities, are estimated to occur in as many as one in five hundred persons (according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1997). This estimate may be lower than the actual number due to a lack of accurate diagnostic screening and expertise in this area;

(3) Autism falls within the American Psychiatric Association's DSM-IV category of pervasive developmental disorders (PDD), and there are related disorders under the category of PDD, all of which are included and referred to as autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Symptoms and characteristics of ASDs can present themselves in a wide variety of combinations, from mild to severe. Autism and ASDs are lifetime disabilities that have significant impacts on the functioning of the person with the disorder as well as on their families;

(4) The majority of children with autism and ASDs will not achieve independence as adults and must be cared for by their families or institutions during their lifetime;

(5) Millions of dollars are spent each year by the State to care for children with autism and ASDs due to the number of individuals affected with these disorders;

(6) Autism and ASDs are the third most common developmental disorder and are more prevalent than Down's Syndrome, childhood cancer, or cystic fibrosis;

(7) Although there is growing federal interest in autism and ASDs, it receives less than five per cent of the funds allocated for research by the federal government;

(8) Scientists consider autism and ASDs to be congenital developmental disorders and most likely to benefit by scientific advancements in genetics and neurology;

(9) Recent advances in biomedical, behavioral, educational, and other areas of research suggest that accurate diagnosis and effective interventions will improve treatments for autism and ASDs. This is attainable if there is sufficient funding for multidisciplinary applied clinical research;

(10) The diverse symptoms and etiology of autism and ASDs require a high level of expertise and interaction in a wide variety of interdisciplinary fields, from bio-psycho-social to educational, to determine definitive diagnosis and effective interventions;

(11) Hawaii will benefit from the establishment of an autism center of excellence through improved diagnostic assessment and evaluation as well as more timely and effective interventions for persons with an ASDs;

(12) Other states have established autism research centers, including nationally recognized centers in California, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York, and these centers attract millions of dollars of funding from the National Institutes of Health and private sources; and

(13) Hawaii can receive similar federal funding for multidisciplinary research on autism and ASDs if a research center is established.

The legislature further finds that the University of Hawaii’s board of regents is empowered to formulate policy, "as provided by law", under Article X, section 6, Constitution of the State of Hawaii. A similar measure to this Act was vetoed by the governor in 2000, stating that the bill infringed on the ability of the board of regents to formulate policy. However, since the adoption of Article X, section 6, of the Constitution of the State of Hawaii, many statutes have been enacted to establish programs within the University system that address a problem of statewide concern, such as the Pacific International Center for High Technology Research (PICHTR), Center for Teacher Education, and medical residency program. Therefore, precedence has been set for the establishment of the Hawaii autism center of excellence.

The purpose of this Act is to establish a Hawaii center for services, training, and research related to autism and ASDs.

SECTION 2. Chapter 304, Hawaii Revised Statutes, is amended by adding a new section to be appropriately designated and to read as follows:

"§304-   Hawaii autism center of excellence; establishment. (a) There is established the Hawaii autism center of excellence, within the University of Hawaii at Manoa, school of medicine. The center shall serve as a central clinical and academic resource for state-of-the-art autism and autism spectrum disorder diagnostic assessment and evaluation as well as therapeutic and educational interventions, consultation, training, and applied clinical research. The center shall endeavor to collaborate nationwide in efforts to identify the most effective therapeutic and educational interventions.

(b) The Hawaii autism center of excellence shall conduct and coordinate research that shall be a multidisciplinary effort among educational, psychosocial, and behavioral disciplines, including pediatrics, psychiatry, neurology, psychology, speech communication, occupational therapy, physical therapy, social work, and nursing. The center shall:

(1) Apply for federal funding and charitable foundation grants;

(2) Provide consultation, services, training, and research to the full spectrum of youth with autism and autism spectrum disorders;

(3) Seek to attain national recognition as a preeminent Pacific institution for autism and autism spectrum disorder services, consultation, training, and multi-disciplinary research;

(4) Collaborate with public and private sector service providers in efforts to address the needs of individuals with autism and autism spectrum disorders;

(5) Collaborate with persons with autism and autism spectrum disorders, their families, and communities in addressing service and support needs; and

(6) Establish an advisory committee and select members of the committee who represent the University of Hawaii, department of health, department of education, and two public members with autism or autism spectrum disorders, to advise the center for purposes of this section."

SECTION 3. There is appropriated out of the general revenues of the State of Hawaii, the sum of $          , or so much thereof as may be necessary for fiscal year 2001-2002, to establish the Hawaii autism center of excellence.

The sum appropriated shall be expended by the University of Hawaii at Manoa for the purposes of this Act.

SECTION 4. New statutory material is underscored.

SECTION 5. This Act shall take effect upon its approval; provided that section 3 shall take effect on July 1, 2001.