Sudbury autism service provider says its forced to cut back services
There has been some more bad news for families of children with autism in northern Ontario.
One of the main providers of therapeutic services, Child and Community Resources (CCR), says it can no longer offer services to new families as a result of a loss of funding.
The Thunder Bay Family Network says since the announcement made by Child and Community Resources they have been inundated with messages from families who are devastated and feel they have nowhere to turn.
"Having built a strong program and staffing model over the last 20 years, Child and Community Resources is the latest victim of the Ford government's changes to the Ontario Autism Program. An already severe lack of qualified service providers in the North has now become a void which will be difficult if not impossible to fill," a statement from Thunder Bay Family Network reads.
"I'm not sure heartbroken or devastated are strong enough words to describe how my family and others feel with the news that was released," says Krista Smith, a mother to a young son with autism. "Its no longer a question of when we will receive a childhood budget, but of how can we possibly access services that my son requires. We are left with absolutely nothing."
Once a primary provider for services in the north, Child and Community Resources is now a shadow of its former self.
"Over the last 12 months, with the pending changes and the uncertainty, many of our staff have left the organization, and we supported them in that decision because it was made clear to us that we would be defunded on March 31st,” said Sherry Fournier, of CCR.
The organization has struggled to adapt to the fee-for-service model brought in by the Ford government.
Fournier says with the vast geography of the north, it just isn’t possible.
"In some parts of the region, there are no private providers, and if our service closes, they will have no access to service. So, they will have money, but no access,” said Fournier.
Julia Ritchie, of the Northern Ontario Autism Alliance, says her two kids have autism and that they have benefited from therapy. Ritchie says she’s heartbroken for rural families who are now facing a dark future.
"If you contact one of the private providers here in Sudbury, you’ll be paying a lot of money for them to travel to your town or you would have to consider moving to a city. That’s devastating. If you have to leave your whole support system behind just to access services for your child, it’s horrible,” said Ritchie.
In a statement to CTV News, a spokesperson for the Ontario Minister of Children, Community, and Social Services, Todd Smith, said":
"When the new Ontario Autism Program is introduced, there will more funding than ever before for Ontario children and families to secure the services they need. Implementation of the new needs-based Ontario Autism Program is planned for April 2020."
Fournier says she’s optimistic about the upcoming decisions from the provincial government.
"We need a commitment from the government that they will work with us and provide stable funding for at least two years, so we can work with all of our partners and our families to build that capacity in northern Ontario," said Fournier.
CCR will now only offer services to about 100 families who received extensions on their need-based programs, the previous model.