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(Canada) Ontario: Only 1 out of 3 kids will receive core autism therapy; 7,000 more each year

July 26, 2023, CTV: Most kids with autism in Ontario won't get core therapy funding soon, documents reveal

Most of the children in Ontario waiting for publicly funded core autism therapy will not receive it any time soon, the government says in an internal assessment obtained by The Canadian Press.

Days into his new role this spring as Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, Michael Parsa was given a transition binder with information on the files he now oversees.

The document obtained through a Freedom of Information request provides a much fuller picture of the Ontario Autism Program than the Progressive Conservative government has so far publicly disclosed.

The current program budget is $667 million, but that will only serve about 20,000 children in core clinical therapies, the document says. Meanwhile, there are about 60,000 children seeking services through the program and about 7,000 more are added to the list each year.

“Families can access a range of other OAP services, but most children and youth will not receive core clinical services funding in the short to medium term,” the document says.

“More children and youth register for the program than age out each year, which means that the waitlist for core clinical services will continue to grow without further investment.”

Alina Cameron, the president of the Ontario Autism Coalition, said that kind of information on timing is exactly what families have been begging the government to disclose.

Many families pay for therapy for their kids out of pocket while they wait for public funding and they need to know whether to remortgage their house, for example, in order to keep footing the bill, Cameron said.

“They say right in the document that there's going to be years-long wait - it's right there in black and white and they aren't articulating that,” she said. …

In the meantime, the government gave families on the wait list interim “one-time” funding of either $22,000 or $5,500 depending on a child's age. The government also ended up issuing a second “one-time” funding round, but anyone who registered for the OAP after March 31, 2021 has not received any….

Intensive behavioural therapy can cost upwards of $80,000 or $90,000 a year, families say. The ministry is monitoring “levels of need and how families prioritize spending their funding allocations” and will give the Treasury Board an updated forecast in the fall on costing and the wait list, the internal document says.

The Progressive Conservatives already more than doubled the program's budget, but more is needed, the document suggests.

“An increased investment in core clinical services will help to increase number of children receiving core clinical services, minimize service gaps for some families, and slow the growth of the waitlist,” it says.

As of March, more than 12,000 children were registered to receive core services, the document says. About 6,400 had completed their determination of needs interview, through which their level of funding is set. The money is then supposed to flow fairly quickly, though some families have reported delays in getting it or not being able to spend it due to a shortage of therapists.

The document does not reveal the number of families actually receiving publicly funded core services - a number the government has previously refused to disclose.

There are, however, more than 3,000 children that were already in government-funded therapy when the Progressive Conservatives scrapped the previous government's plan.

Their funding levels have been maintained until now, but about half will eventually receive less government-funded therapy because their current programs exceed the maximum funding allocation for the new provincial program….


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