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NIMH Career Enhancement Award to Advance Autism Services for Adults and Transition-Age Youth


Lauren D. Hill, Ph.D.
Denise Juliano-Bult, M.S.W.
Division of Services and Intervention Research


The goal of this initiative is to rapidly increase the capacity of the NIMH investigator workforce to develop and test the effectiveness of a broad range of services that address the needs of adults and transition-age youth with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).


Recent studies indicate that there are 5.3 million adults over the age of 20 diagnosed with ASD, and that about a half million youth with ASD will enter adulthood over the next decade. In recognition of the need for evidence-based ASD services across the lifespan, the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC) Strategic Plan for ASD Research  has articulated research objectives for adult and transition-age youth services across multiple domains.

In response to the IACC strategic plan, NIMH previously issued two requests for applications (RFAs; RFA-MH-14-102  and RFA-MH-17-205 ), which yielded a number of promising pilot projects. Of concern, however, is the fact that some important service domains called for by the IACC remain unaddressed and that the pool of new principal investigators to address those domains is not growing at a rate sufficient to meet the need.    

In order to rapidly augment the research workforce, this initiative would utilize the NIH Career Enhancement Award mechanism (K18) to support short-term, part-time, mentored research training for experienced investigators drawn from related or complementary fields. The period of mentored support would provide investigators with the opportunity to redirect or expand their research programs through the acquisition of new skills and knowledge, resulting in requisite scientific competencies to conduct research relevant to services for adults and transition-age youth with ASD. 

This initiative is designed to address a critical public health need by:

  • Developing an enriched pool of investigators with funded NIMH research project grants;
  • Increasing the number and breadth of NIMH research project grant applications; and  
  • Supporting the generation of an evidence base for effective services that improve outcomes.