Dan Hust | Democrat
U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, left, and Center for Discovery CEO Patrick Dollard shared their excitement Tuesday over Schumer’s proposed bill to aim federal funds towards helping young autistic adults better transition into professional and educational pursuits, once they’ve “aged out” of the existing assistance system at 22. The Center stands to gain significant monies if the bill passes, due to its leading role in autistic research and services.
More money for autism
Story by Dan Hust
HARRIS November 29, 2013 Center for Discovery CEO Patrick Dollard credited U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer for an idea Dollard had learned about just four hours prior.
“He’s on to something with this bill,” an excited Dollard told a gathering of media and Center employees Tuesday inside the Harris facility.
That bill is the Assistance in Gaining Experience, Independence and Navigation Act, or AGE-IN.
And it promises to bring hundreds of thousands of dollars, perhaps millions, to the Center in an area it’s already aggressively expanding: autism services.
“I care a lot about this,” affirmed Schumer, who had just flown in from Schenectady on a stopover to Binghamton.
Recalling a forum with 300 parents of autistic children early in his Senatorial career, Schumer said, “Since that time, I’ve devoted myself to help find cures and treatments for autism.”
His latest effort in that regard is the AGE-IN proposal, which if approved by Congress would earmark federal funds to help young adults who have “aged out” of the autism care system simply because they turned 22.
“We cannot abandon our young people just as they are about to continue with their education or enter the workforce,” he remarked, likening it to the cutting of a lifeline. “Instead, what we need to do is call in the experts at places like the Center for Discovery to help bridge that gap.”
AGE-IN wouldn’t just provide funding for practical assistance, however. It would also fund research and training.
And the Center for Discovery is world-famous for its combination of research and the practical application thereof.
“The Center could easily lead the charge in sharing and developing new techniques,” the Senator stated, calling it “one of the best candidates for federal funding.”
Turning to Dollard, Schumer assessed, “You have the brains… you have the experience… and you have the resources… so you’re perfect for the legislation.”
At present, the Center’s Harris and Hurleyville complexes provide developmental and therapeutic services for 342 children and 154 adults, plus outpatient offerings.
Researchers from Harvard, Columbia, MIT, Northeastern and other top universities regularly work with the Center on autism and a range of other developmental disabilities.
With a staff of more than 1,500 (expected to grow by hundreds more when a new autism center opens), the Center is Sullivan County’s largest employer.
So it stands a good chance of landing some of that federal funding if the notoriously disagreeable Congress can agree next year.
“That’s optimistic but realistic,” Schumer said.