On February 3, 2021, the Ontario government announced that commencing March 2021, it would begin offering core clinical services as part of the Ontario Autism Program (“OAP”). These services will be based on a child’s individual needs, including applied behaviour analysis (“ABA”), speech language pathology, occupational therapy and mental health supports, to about 600 children with autism.
The government stated that it would start training care coordinators immediately to identify needs and support families in meeting their child’s goals, determine strengths and support needs, manage funding and identify and access core clinical services. Once families receiving their funding allocation, they will work directly with clinicians to develop treatment plans for their child. The program will also include:
- Renewal of interim funding (one-time payments and childhood budget recipients): Families will be offered additional payments of either $5,000 or $20,000, based on their child’s age, to purchase eligible services and supports they think are most appropriate;
- Urgent response services through community-based organizations;
- A $3.8 million additional investment in diagnostic hubs; and
- Increased oversight of clinicians providing ABA therapies: Including legislation to regulate ABA as a new profession under the College of Psychologists of Ontario.
We are still waiting on details with respect to eligibility criteria for the initial roll out of the services.
In addition, as families continue to navigate the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the current lockdown, the province has also announced that it would extend funding for families already registered with the OAP, so that they can continue to access and afford crucial services.
These developments are an important step in the right direction, particularly in light of ongoing delays in the delivery and redesign of a provincial autism program. However, the limited reach of the core clinical services program does little to meet the needs of thousands of children living with autism in the province, who will have to continue to wait for services until a clear and robust autism program is implemented.
The government’s news release is available here: https://news.ontario.ca/en/release/60220/ontario-expanding-supports-for-families-of-children-with-autism