Center for Autism and Early Childhood Mental Health Receives $1.5 Million State Grant

Photo: Mike Peters

Holding bouquets and surrounded by children and staff of the Ben Samuels Children’s Center are, from left, Ben Samuels' daughter, Arlyn Cypen, New Jersey First Lady Mary Pat Christie, and Health and Senior Services Commissioner Mary E. O’Dowd.

Marking a new, coordinated approach to autism research in New Jersey, on June 28, First Lady Mary Pat Christie and Health and Senior Services Commissioner Mary E. O’Dowd announced $3.7 million in grants to create a New Jersey Autism Center of Excellence (NJ ACE). Montclair State University’s Center for Autism and Early Childhood Mental Health is the first grant recipient, receiving $1.5 million over five years to establish a Center of Excellence to coordinate all autism research funded by the Governor’s Council for Medical Research and Treatment of Autism.

“With the creation of the Autism Center of Excellence we will have one voice leading research into ASDs,” said Commissioner O’Dowd. “These grants advance New Jersey’s strong commitment to enhancing the lives of individuals with autism and will put our state at the forefront of autism research.”

The Center of Excellence will serve as a coordinating center to share and promote clinical research done by Council grantees and work in partnership with the Governor’s Council on new collaborations.

“I’m delighted that the new coordinating center at Montclair State will be able to play a vital role in advancing the mission of NJ ACE by providing unifying, common management and support to its clinical research program sites,” said Gerard Costa, director of the University’s Center for Autism and Early Childhood Mental Health. “By serving as the voice of NJ ACE, the coordinating center will be able to promote, share, and disseminate best practices and lessons learned in the conduct of clinical research.”

First Lady Mary Pat Christie said, “Today is a very exciting day for the many families touched by this developmental disorder, marking another step on the path to better understanding and more effective treatment. With the designation of a Center for Excellence and the announcement of $3.7 million in grants, we are giving hope to New Jersey families and advancing the state’s strong commitment to enhance the lives of individuals with autism by providing them every possible resource to grow to their full potential.”

Today’s grants were announced after a tour of the Ben Samuels Children’s Center at Montclair State University. The grants were reviewed by an Independent Scientific Merit Review Panel, consisting of 15 nationally known experts in autism clinical research.

Montclair State University President Susan A. Cole said The Ben Samuels Children’s Center at Montclair State University has provided outstanding programs for young children with autism for many years and the University’s new Center for Autism and Early Childhood Mental Health has expanded the work in this important field.

“We are very grateful to the Governor’s Council for this major grant to Montclair State to become the statewide coordinating center for autism research and treatment,” said Cole. “The University is deeply committed to this effort, and we are confident that this opportunity will enable us to make a measurable and sustained difference in the lives of New Jersey children.”

The announcement was covered by the Record and NJ Today.

View video coverage at YouTube.