ONTARIO INCREASING ACCESS TO SERVICES FOR CHILDREN WITH AUTISM
HAMILTON— The Ontario government is making it easier for families to access services in the needs-based Ontario Autism Program (OAP) with the selection of the Independent Intake Organization (IIO), which will help families navigate the program from intake to funding. The province is also launching the Entry to School Program to support children on the autism spectrum entering kindergarten or Grade 1 for the first time and awarding grants to service providers to hire and train new clinical staff so they can support more families.
“Each child with autism is unique and the complexities of everyday life can be daunting for families when dealing with the range of challenges they may face, which is why we are creating a centralized, Independent Intake Organization to help families navigate and access the services available,” said Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services. “Our needs-based Ontario Autism Program is built by the community, for the community because we believe every child deserves the supports they need to help them reach their full potential.”
The IIO will be delivered through a partnership between Accerta Services Inc., McMaster University, Autism Ontario, and HealthCare 365. The IIO partners bring together significant experience in administering public programs, supporting children and youth on the autism spectrum and their caregivers, care coordination, service navigation, research, and healthcare education.
The IIO is scheduled to start supporting families in spring 2022 and will play a key role in providing more families with funding to purchase core clinical services for their children and youth. These services include applied behaviour analysis, speech-language pathology, occupational therapy and mental health services. Families of children with existing behaviour plans will have the option to enter core clinical services in the order that they registered in the Ontario Autism Program, or extend their plans until spring 2023, at which time they will begin to transition. This will provide stability for families, while enabling more children to access core clinical services. The government is on track to meeting its commitment of providing 8,000 children with funding for core clinical services by fall 2022.
Beginning in March 2022, children on the autism spectrum entering kindergarten or Grade 1 for the first time will be able to access the Entry to School Program. The six-month program will focus on helping children develop school-readiness skills in communication, play, social interaction, behavioural self-management and learning and attention. Children will be invited to register for the program beginning in January 2022.
“Starting school is an exciting and important milestone for children and their families,” said Cindy Harrison, CEO and co-founder of ACT Learning Centre. “The Entry to School Program will support children with autism spectrum disorder and educators by helping them build important skills to facilitate a smooth and successful transition to the classroom.”
Ontario is also continuing to build capacity in the children’s services sector as it works to attract and retain the professionals necessary to deliver these important services. Through the Workforce Capacity Fund, the government is awarding over 80 grants to build and retain the workforce, including behaviour analysts, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, and mental health clinicians.
“With the launch of the Independent Intake Organization and the Entry to School Program, we are well on our way to delivering on the recommendations of the Ontario Autism Advisory Panel Report,” said Jeremy Roberts, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Children, Community & Social Services. “Throughout the entire reform of the OAP, I have been guided by a desire to see a program that would have helped my family when we needed supports for my brother. Today’s announcement is another key step in the roll-out of a truly world-class autism program here in Ontario.”
Ontario is also preparing to launch urgent response services as another key element of the needs-based Ontario Autism Program. This past summer, the ministry launched a regional-based proposals process for urgent response services. The ministry identified 11 lead organizations and established regional planning tables to develop service delivery models in different parts of the province. The ministry will provide more information about these services and how families will be able to access them in early 2022.
- In July 2019, the Ontario government increased the Ontario Autism Program (OAP) budget from approximately $300 million to $600 million annually to help ensure the program was both needs-based and sustainable moving forward.
- In December 2019, the Minister of Children, Community and Social Services announced a needs-based design framework for the OAP that was aligned with the recommendations of the Autism Advisory Panel.
- On the advice of the Panel, an Implementation Working Group was established in December 2019 to provide advice and input on the operationalization and implementation of a number of key design elements of the program.
- As the work of implementing this new program was being completed, approximately 40,000 children and youth have been receiving services and supports through an existing OAP behaviour plan, childhood budgets, interim funding, core clinical services, foundational family services and caregiver mediated early years programs.
“Accerta assembled an interdisciplinary team of leaders from across Ontario to support children and youth on the autism spectrum. Our team combines profound knowledge of Ontario’s autism ecosystem, service delivery, clinical insight, and expert care-coordination with technical proficiency related to intake, registration, and reconciliation of payments. We look forward to leveraging our proven administrative processes to build trust and confidence in the Ontario Autism Program and contribute to better outcomes for children and youth on the autism spectrum.”
– Peter Owsiany
President and CEO of Accerta
“Supporting Ontario families with children on the autism spectrum across the province has been a priority for Autism Ontario for 50 years. We are pleased to continue that evolving work through a partnership with Accerta, HealthCare365 and McMaster University, which will allow us to help families navigate the Ontario Autism Program.”
– Margaret Spoelstra
Executive Director of Autism Ontario
“HealthCare 365 is proud and excited to be able to provide the tools and supports that will allow children and their families to have a more coordinated, caring, and managed experience with providers and programs. We are delighted to be involved with a world-class team to create the best experience for children and families in need.”
– Skip Schwartz
CEO of HealthCare 365
“We are delighted that the evidence-based research and evaluation expertise provided by McMaster University will contribute to improving the lives, health and development of children, youth and their families through the new Ontario Autism Program.”
– Dr. Stelios Georgiades
McMaster Children’s Hospital Chair in Autism and Neurodevelopment; Associate Professor, Psychiatry & Behavioural Neurosciences, Scientist, Offord Centre for Child Studies, McMaster University