$14.8 Million Public-Private Partnership to Create Center for Autism

$14.8 Million Public-Private Partnership to Create Center for Autism

The Children and Families Commission of Orange County has entered into a $14.8 million public-private partnership with the William & Nancy Thompson Family Foundation to create the Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders of Southern California.

Building on the work of the For OC Kids Neurodevelopmental Center, which has provided assessment, diagnosis, care coordination, family support, and education for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and other developmental disorders since 2001, the Center for Autism will pursue a multidisciplinary approach to clinical care, education, and research related to autism, with the ultimate goal of offering a complete range of diagnostic and treatment services for children, adolescents, and young adults. The center will be a part of the University of California, Irvine and will be led by UC Irvine and Children's Hospital of Orange County pediatric neurologist Joseph Donnelly, who is also the director of For OC Kids. In addition to providing rehabilitation services, CHOC Children's has made a five-year commitment to fund several positions based at the center, including a pediatric neurologist and a psychologist.

The UC Irvine School of Medicine will receive $14 million in initial funding through the partnership — a $7 million grant for evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment services from the commission and $7 million from the foundation in support of clinical services and research. The foundation's investment will support a drug discovery platform that unites UC Irvine scientists working in diverse specialties, from gene function to cell biology to brain function and behavior, in a common purpose: to develop an effective ASD drug therapy.

In addition, with $800,000 in funding from the Thompson Family Foundation, Chapman University's College of Educational Studies will spearhead two initiatives for children and families affected by ASD. The Family-Schools Intervention Team will serve as an advocate for children and as an ombudsman between the family and the school system, while a second initiative will offer education and outreach to help parents and educators access the most up-to-date information and ideas for children with autism.

"We intend to create a nationally recognized treatment and research center that provides help and hope for children and families living with autism spectrum and neurodevelopmental disorders," said William Thompson, chair of the Thompson Family Foundation, which created the Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders at the University of Missouri in 2005. "Nothing like this currently exists in Southern California, and we are absolutely committed to transforming the diagnosis and treatment of autism."