Premier Kathleen Wynne announced today the government is taking action to expand autism services for children and youth across Ontario.
Premier Wynne was joined today by Michael Coteau, Minister of Children and Youth Services, at Etobicoke Children’s Centre to highlight the province’s 2018 Budget commitment to invest $62 million in new funding for the Ontario Autism Program (OAP) over the next year. This increase will expand the current system so more children and youth can access behavioural services, family supports and training.
The new funding builds on the government’s previous and unprecedented commitment of more than $500 million over five years to create the Ontario Autism Program and expand autism services. Today’s announcement will further expand that program, which seeks to meet a child’s specific needs at any age. This funding will offer families across the province more access to flexible, individualized services that are based on the needs and strengths of their children.
The commitment Premier Wynne highlighted today is also about continuing to increase choice for families of children and youth with autism, while also recognizing the need to address wait times. The government introduced a direct funding option for behavioural services on January 15. Families can now choose either to receive direct funding to pay for evidence-based behavioural services for their child, or service through one of Ontario’s regional service providers.
Increasing supports for children and youth with autism is part of the government’s plan to support care, create opportunity and make life more affordable during this period of rapid economic change. The plan includes free prescription drugs for everyone under 25, and 65 or over, through the biggest expansion of medicare in a generation, free tuition for hundreds of thousands of students, a higher minimum wage and better working conditions, and free preschool child care from 2 ½ to kindergarten.
One in 66 children and youth is identified with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
The Ontario Autism Program was shaped by the collective voices of parents, caregivers and other experts and advocates. Services are flexible, individualized and based on the needs, strengths and goals of each child and youth with autism and their family.
Ontario has increased the maximum hourly rate for evidence-based behavioural services purchased through the OAP from $39 per hour to a maximum of $55 per hour, for families who choose the direct funding option.
Over 5,000 children and youth are currently accessing behavioural services through the direct funding or direct service options.
Since January 2017, five new diagnostic hubs have been improving the availability of ASD diagnoses so that children and youth can start accessing the supports they need as quickly as possible. These hubs have conducted more than 2,000 assessments across the province.
Since 2004, the government has invested more than $20 million to support more than 20 autism research initiatives.
Ontario is also investing $1.8 billion over three years to improve services for adults living with developmental disabilities. This investment will give families more choice and flexibility when it comes to care, increase access to safe and secure housing, and enhance supports for caregivers. It will also help ease the transition between the children and youth system and the adult system.
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