The Government of Ontario announced on Feb. 6th, 2019 that it will reform children’s autism services in the province, by moving away from regional health care agency management and oversight to a fee-for-service model, whereby parents will receive direct funding to source their own autism support services for their children.
Children’s Mental Health Ontario believes that this will neither result in quality care nor provide the best outcomes for children with autism. The mental health services that the majority of kids with autism need (up to 70%) will not be included or integrated into the new model of care. There are thousands of families in turmoil because the specialized supports they need for their children with autism, which are often a tailored combination of mental health, autism, and speech and language services, are not available at the right time and in their community. Some are waiting years for help. This is unlikely to change if they are only receiving partial care. As such, this change may result in even more emergency room visits rather than shorter wait lists, as families turn to the only door that is open all the time. We acknowledge the current model is imperfect, but it provides options to families, those wanting complete choice, and those who rely heavily on social and public supports to manage the often-unbearable burden of organizing, navigating and funding intensive supports for their children with autism and mental health issues.
CMHO recognizes the Ontario government’s intention is to improve children’s autism services. The province has recognized the need to reduce wait times for autism as well as mental health, but the improvements need to be integrated with mental health services. And the government also needs to strictly regulate quality so that families know that their children are receiving the best quality care. Investing in mental health so we can support families with the type of services they need where and when they need it must be done to achieve quality care, reduced wait times and ensure the best outcomes for children with autism. An integrated policy and investment are needed. CMHO and its nearly 100 child and youth mental health service providers are ready to support Ontario families.