St. Clair County Community Mental Health is participating this year’s “Light It Up Blue” campaign sponsored by Autism Speaks to help raise awareness of autism as a growing public health crisis. Autism Speaks is North America’s largest autism science and advocacy organization. Beginning yesterday St. Clair County CMH joined “Light It Up Blue” with blue lights adorning the trees at the front of the building at 3111 Electric Avenue in Port Huron. Blue lights also decorate the CMH West building located at 411 N. Glassford Street in Capac. CMH is partnering with over 500 other participants in over 120 U.S. cities and 25 countries to shine a bright light on autism. Participating buildings include: the Empire State Building, Universal Studios in Hollywood and Orlando, the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, the CN Tower in Canada, and the Sydney Opera House in Australia. “We are pleased to play an active role in this year’s “Light It Up Blue” campaign,” said Michael McCartan, Executive Director of St. Clair County Community Mental Health. “We hope that the symbolic blue lights will raise awareness of autism in our community.” “We encourage the public to help raise awareness about autism by placing blue light bulbs in their outside lighting fixtures or hanging a cut-out blue puzzle piece on their front door,” said McCartan. The blue puzzle piece is the recognized symbol of autism. Large blue puzzle pieces will decorate the lobby of the CMH Administration building during the month of April. Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that inhibits a person’s ability to communicate and develop social relationships, and is often accompanied by behavioral challenges. According to a March 29, 2012 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, autism spectrum disorders are diagnosed in one in 88 children in the United States, affecting five times as many boys than girls. The prevalence of autism increased 23 percent since the last report in 2009. Some of this increase is due to the way children are identified, diagnosed and served in their communities, although exactly how much is due to these factors is unknown. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have called autism a national public health crisis whose cause and cure remain unknown.