HHS officials still won’t answer to Congress four months after hearings

EBCALA recently learned that Drs. Guttmacher and Boyle who testified on behalf of the federal government in last November’s “1 in 88 Children: A Look Into the Federal Response to Rising Rates of Autism” have not followed up with the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (COGR) since leaving the stand. During the hearing, there were several occasions where both doctors did not know answers or said they would provide more information to back up the answers they provided to COGR. More than four months have passed since the hearing and no information has been released. EBCALA finds this unacceptable.

Earlier today, EBCALA hand delivered the letter below to Representative Issa’s staff to address this issue and asks for Mr. Issa to consider holding another autism hearing. With 1 in 50 school aged children holding an autism diagnosis and the lackluster response from the federal witnesses to the November hearing, EBCALA feels it is critical to call on COGR to use their power to change America’s autism policy.

Today EBCALA Director of Communications Becky Estepp and parents of children with autism who live in Rep. Issa’s 49th district hand deliver the letter below asking for more autism hearings.

The Honorable Darrell Issa
2347 Rayburn House Office Building
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Representative Issa:

The Elizabeth Birt Center for Autism Law and Advocacy (EBCALA) would like to thank you for holding the “1 in 88 Children: A Look Into the Federal Response to Rising Rates of Autism” in November, 2012. Two EBCALA representatives, Louis Conte and Rebecca Estepp, worked diligently with your staffers in both your DC and district office over the past few years on this issue. We hope our meetings with your staff assisted you to develop the deep understanding of autism you exhibited at the hearing.

During last November’s hearing you said:

“The truth is we have a lot to do.  I will not claim that I have come here timely.  This is the last few days of my first two years as chairman, and this is our first hearing.  But I will promise you here today that we will stay involved in this issue.  We will stay involved through staff and through, if appropriate, additional hearings.”

The CDC recently announced that the autism rate is now 1 in 50 American children.  EBCALA strongly urges you as the Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and  Government Reform (COGR) to revisit autism’s astronomical growth of prevalence and the government response to this critical issue with another hearing very soon.

Another troubling issue has come to EBCALA’s attention. During the November hearing, Drs. Guttmacher and Boyle promised your Committee on more than a half of dozen occasions to provide answers or more information. Through correspondence with Adaline Maushardt at your Vista office, EBCALA has learned that Drs. Guttmacher and Boyle have yet to submit any information to COGR. A four-month delay in responding to Congress is unacceptable. It shows the utter disregard these agencies and their functionaries have for Congress and for the autism crisis itself.

EBCALA strongly urges you to have another hearing as soon as possible. EBCALA is willing to help you, your staff, other members of COGR and their staff to prepare for another hearing.

The federal response to the autism epidemic has been a complete failure, yet the CDC and NIH continue to employ the same people in positions of power to manage the federal response to the epidemic.  Why is this?  Why is Dr. Tom Insel still the head of the Inter-Agency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) when IACC has produced no results? Why is Dr. Colleen Boyle still at the CDC?  Dr. Boyle had no answers when she testified at the 2000 COGR autism hearings.  She still had no answers at the 2012 COGR hearings. Why is Dr. Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp still at CDC?  For more than a decade, she has been eight years behind in counting the casualties of the autism epidemic.

How long will Congress stand by and do nothing while the CDC counts the autism rate with an abacus eight years in arrears?  The people who have failed to effectively manage the federal response the autism epidemic should be fired.  Clearly the executive branch will not reorganize the leadership of the CDC without Congressional pressure.

As a parent of a child with autism, please, I urge you to lead on this issue.  Autism threatens the future of this country and it’s a concern on the minds of every parent today.  Please use your authority to hold the executive branch accountable for its disastrous response to the autism epidemic.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely yours,

Mary Holland
Chairman of the Board
Elizabeth Birt Center for Autism Law and Advocacy

cc: The Honorable Elijah Cummings, Ranking Member, House Government Reform and Oversight Committee