Montclair State’s NJ ACE Coordinating Center to Oversee $4.5 Million in Grants for Autism Research

State officials make NJ ACE grant announcement at Montclair State

Photo: Mike Peters

Gerard Costa, director of Montclair State University's Center for Autism and Early Childhood Mental Health.

Speaking at Montclair State University on Thursday, June 27, 2013, New Jersey State Health Commissioner Mary E. O’Dowd announced that seven recipients will share $4.5 million in grants for autism research.

In June 2012, Montclair State University’s Center for Autism and Early Childhood Mental Health was the first grant recipient, receiving funds to establish a New Jersey Autism Center of Excellence (NJ ACE) Coordinating Center to share and promote all autism research funded by the Governor’s Council for Medical Research and Treatment of Autism. Rutgers University’s Department of Genetics and its Robert Wood Johnson Medical School were 2012 Program Site research award recipients.

On June 27, Children’s Specialized Hospital received a third Program Site award and six new Pilot Sites research projects received funding for two- to five-year-long projects. “The range of funded projects include a search for biomedical and genetic markers of autism; efficacy of interventions; examination of prenatal and perinatal risk factors; promotion of early identification in underserved families; and crafting ways of creating a safer and more adaptive society,” said Gerard Costa, who as director of the University’s Center for Autism and Early Childhood Mental Health oversees the NJ ACE Coordinating Center at Montclair State University.

The grants were announced after a tour of the Ben Samuels Children’s Center at Montclair State. In her remarks, O’Dowd noted that 1 in 49 children in New Jersey are diagnosed for autism spectrum disorders, ranking the state among the highest in the nation. While the increased prevalence of autism may reflect a greater awareness and improved assessments of the disorder, there is an ongoing need for continued research.

Dr. Caroline Eggerding, chair of the Governor’s Council for Medical Research and Treatment of Autism spoke about the Council’s vision for grants and what research support means for families affected by autism.

“Autism is a multiply determined profile that changes not only the lives of those affected with it, but also their friends, families, and communities,” said Costa. “Montclair State has been given a significant opportunity, responsibility and honor to promote communication, collaboration and a shared vision on how best to understand and promote the full development of persons with autism.”

“Montclair State University is not an ivory tower institution,” President Susan A. Cole said in her welcoming remarks. “We are deeply engaged in the communities we serve, addressing the most pressing issues facing our society, and we have been engaged in the efforts to understand and treat autism for many years.”

According to Costa, the Coordinating Center is dedicated to serving as the voice of NJ ACE. “This is our mission. With the new grants, our total coordination extends to nine sites. This is an unfolding responsibility and we continue to define our role even as we are engaged in the work,” he explained. “We are helping to create a spirit of community among programs that traditionally worked alone.”

In September 2011, by establishing the Center for Autism and Early Childhood Mental Health, the University assumed a leadership role in autism research and treatment. “At that time, we could not have anticipated the remarkable opportunity that has since transpired to work with the stellar clinical research partners that are now part of the network of NJ ACE sites that Montclair State is pleased to coordinate” Cole said.

Read the story in The Montclair Times.