UC Irvine will open a center for autism research and treatment with $14.8 million in public-private funding to help those affected by autism, university officials announced Thursday.
The Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders of Southern California will be made up of experts in the field of autism and neurodevelopmental disorders and provide a complete range of diagnostic and treatment services to children, adolescents and young adults from birth to age 22 years old, according to university officials.
The center is being created with $14.8 million in funding, which is a first-of-its-kind public-private partnership between the William & Nancy Thompson Family Foundation and the Children and Families Commission of Orange County. Seven million will be used for evaluation, diagnosis and treatment services and another $7 million will support clinical services and research.
"Nothing like this currently exists in Southern California and we are absolutely committed to transforming the diagnosis and treatment of autism,” Newport Beach resident William Thompson said in a released statement.
The partnership will also support a drug research program led by UCI professor Dr. J. Jay Gargus. He and a research team will study gene function, cell biology, brain function and behavior of those with autism in hopes of finding a cure for autism-related disorders and exploring the causes.
“The growing rate of autism and neurodevelopmental disorders is staggering and has a profound impact on families and communities,” said Sandra Barry, chair of the Children and Families Commission of Orange County and former superintendent of Anaheim City Schools.
Children's Hospital of Orange County and Chapman University have lent support to the Center for Autism. CHOC will fund some staff positions including a neurologist and psychologist. Chapman will spearhead educational services and resources for children and families impacted by disorders on the autism spectrum.
The new autism center will follow the lead of UCI's For OC Kids, which has provided assessment, diagnosis, care coordination, family support and education for children with autism and other developmental disorders since 2001.