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(Canada) ON: 46,000 kids on autism waitlist; pilot program for 600 started

June 6, 2021, Inquinte CA, ON: Thousands of children could receive new needs-based therapy by year’s end

Foundational family services are in place for 600 children that have entered the new autism needs-based pilot program and it is hoped thousands more will move into the program later this year, says Bay of Quinte MPP Todd Smith. The Minister of Children, Community and Social Service's comments come following a rally held by the Ontario Autism Coalition in Belleville on Saturday. Families of children with autism gathered for a small socially distanced rally at the intersection of North Front and Bell Blvd to voice their concerns about 46,000 children on waitlists for behavioural therapy. "We want people to know that families of children with autism are still not getting the help they need," said Angela Brandt, president of the Ontario Autism Coalition. She said the waitlist has doubled in size to 46,000 children and 'financial support for the evidence-based behavioral therapy is insufficient.' It offers $5,000 for kids over the age of six and $20,000 for kids under five. In some severe cases that leaves a shortfall between $60,000 to $80,000 a year local autism advocate, Sarah Daley has said in previous interviews with Inquinte. Daley, who has a young son with autism, noted true, meaningful action that was promised back in 2018 by the provincial government and Smith, including the implementation of a needs-based therapy program and shrinking the waitlist for care funding has not been followed through on. She said there is no current date set up for a fit and proper, fully funded needs-based program after families were initially told April 2020, then April 2021, would be the time for implementation. In response, Smith said as a result of $600 million [$496M U.S.] in investments by his government and consultation with clinicians, researchers, families and advocates, all children with autism are receiving financial support unlike through the previous Liberal government. Smith added after the initial 600 children have received their allotment of funds using the new Needs-Based Assessment Tool, clinicians and families will provide feedback on this new process and it is hoped thousands of children will move into the new program later this year…. Smith noted for the first time in nearly a decade he was able to secure $240 [$198M] million in this year's budget for children receiving services from Children's Treatment Centres in Ontario including the Quinte CTC at Belleville General Hospital. Smith also touted investments in the new Children's Treatment Centre at CHEO in Ottawa and another in Chatham-Kent. "It is safe to say this government has announced more new funding for children with special needs than any other," said Smith. The Ontario Autism Coalition also took issue with the recent and quick removal of a digital billboard that overlooked the intersection where the rally was held. It featured a picture of Smith with a banner headline, 46,000 Autistic Kids left behind” and a large subhead claiming, “Todd Smith: All talk NO ACTION.”

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