Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Minister's autism claims 'nonsensical'


Minister of Children and Family Development Mary Polak claims she improved services for autistic children by cutting the Early Intensive Behavioural Intervention program at Queen Alexandra Centre for Child Health. This is nonsensical.

Cumulatively, she has cut more than $3 million provincewide from autism services for children under six.

In her announcement last September, Polak tried to disguise this cut as an improvement in service, claiming that eliminating Queen Alexandra's $5-million intensive therapy program allows the government to increase funding for all autistic children under 6 from $20,000 to $22,000.

Given the number of autistic children in the province, this actually reduced overall funding to the under-six group by more than $3 million.

Meanwhile, the $2,000 per child increase barely covers the new HST charged on service costs that families must now pay.

Parents of autistic children say the program closure has been devastating. Families are reporting almost universal regression in the children who were cut from the program.

The Queen Alexandra program cost about $70,000 for three or four years of intensive treatment. That might seem steep, but studies estimate that, if left untreated, caring for autistic individuals over the course of their lives costs about $2 million per person.

Putting aside the human impact of giving children and their families a shot at life lived to its full potential, funding early autism intervention programs saves money. Why is the government ignoring that?

Reid Johnson


Health Sciences Association of B.C.

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