Inspira’s Autism Diagnostic Center brings much-needed services to southern New Jersey

As autism in New Jersey reaches 3rd-highest rates in country, Inspira’s center will help fill critical gap in providing diagnoses and resources for families

With an aim of serving both children and adults on the autism spectrum, Inspira Health opened its new Autism Diagnostic Center in Woodbury.

The center, which will address a critical need in southern New Jersey, is designed to offer early testing, diagnosis and comprehensive resources.

It is needed.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, New Jersey now has the third-highest rate of autism in the U.S.:  1 in 35, or 2.8%, of 8-year-old children and 1 in 51, or 2%, of 4-year-old children have autism spectrum disorder.

And, here’s the catch with anyone familiar with the community: There are so many people on the spectrum who have not yet been identified.

A big issue is that, other than the newly established diagnostic center, few options and availability exist in South Jersey.

Megan Zold, a licensed clinical social worker and autism spectrum disorder clinical specialist who works at the center, said its impact will be huge.

“There have been positive strides taken within the community to better educate and inform an understanding of ASD; however, there is still a critical need for an assessment and diagnostic center to initiate services,” she said. “Inspira’s new center is dedicated to evaluation and diagnosis of autism in a timely manner. This will streamline the process to appropriate interventions and support across settings.”

Inspira Health’s Autism Diagnostic Center represents a pivotal step toward nurturing the wellbeing of children with ASD and their families, said Kate McMullin, also a licensed clinical social worker.

“Diagnostic services are also needed for adolescents and adults who have been experiencing challenges within the mental health system and are questioning their current diagnosis or experiencing barriers with current treatment,” she said.

The Autism Diagnostic Center was funded by a $3 million grant from the state of New Jersey and is projected to help countless families receive critically important diagnoses. The ADC utilizes the gold standard autism diagnostic observation schedule. Additionally, the ADC provides services that extend beyond diagnoses, providing community support services and case management. The center also enhances school-based teams’ ability to identify ASD, potentially reducing unnecessary struggles and misdiagnoses that can fracture family support systems and lead to long-term residential care, if left untreated.

State Sen. Nilsa Cruz-Perez (D-Woodbury) was instrumental in securing the funding Inspira received from the state.

“The Autism Diagnostic Center represents an important investment in our children’s futures,” she said. “The opening of this center is the right response to a crucial necessity within our community for accurate ASD diagnoses and ongoing resources, ensuring that our families have the support they need close to home.”

Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald (D-Voorhees) has been a longtime advocate of those in the community.

“Supporting parents in their lifelong journey of raising their children is critical — even more so when supporting parents of children with autism,” he said. “Providing tangible solutions to families managing autism spectrum disorder is a smart investment in the future of our state.

“The ADC is more than a building. It represents the promise of early detection, guidance and enduring community support for our children.”