New Autism Announcement: Self Congratulatory And Very Short on Details
Today the Minister of Children and Youth Services Micheal Coteau made an “announcement” on what the new Ontario Autism Program (OAP) will look like. The announcement was made at one of the regional service providers in Ontario – ErinOak – and live streamed via web. About half of the announcement was congratulating the people involved for their hard work, before many found the live streaming of the event cut out, just as Coteau started his “announcement”.
Most of what was “announced” today is what a lot of parents already knew. It wasn’t really an announcement, more of a presentation of what the government is working on. I participated in a teleconference town hall a few weeks ago with Coteau, and wrote about it. The only real take away from this announcement is that the Minister seems to have moved in the right direction around regulating providers in the Ontario Autism Program, which he pretty much dismissed a few weeks ago in the teleconference. Another big take away is that a few weeks ago the Minister told parents he was on the fence regarding an appeals process to allow parents an option to appeal decisions made in service reductions, diagnosis, etc. There will be an appeals process in the new OAP, but no details as to what that will actually look like.
In fact, there’s basically nothing in this announcement that details anything with respect the new OAP. Concerns brought up a few weeks ago with the minister regarding direct funding and how that would be implemented were not addressed today. Coteau stated to parents that the vast majority of kids waiting on ABA wait lists not currently receiving a direct funding option, would have to wait for a block of ABA to become available after direct funding was rolled out before they would qualify. This would put the vast majority of kids on wait lists right now without direct funding options well into the provincial election of 2018.
Coteau then ended this “announcement” of milestones by taking no questions from media. The Ministry has provided the following information today to media and parents, along with a “puff piece” press release on the “announcement” today:
"Beginning in June 2017:
-Single point of entry: Families will join the new Ontario Autism Program through a 1-800 number for each region. Families will no longer need to apply to two separate programs, nor will they receive separate assessments or have multiple autism service plans.
-More treatment spaces: The number of treatment spaces available province-wide will continue to increase so families will experience shorter wait times and access services sooner.
-Child and family-centered services: Consistent, evidence-based clinical decision making will be focused on children’s individual needs and will include input from parents, service providers and educators. Autism services will be tailored to the individual needs of children and youth, regardless of age. Families will be actively involved and play a central role in the assessment, goal-setting and intervention planning process for their child.
-Fair and transparent waitlist transition: Families will enter the OAP in chronological order, based on their position on the current waitlist. For children who are on both ABA and IBI waitlists, the position with the earliest date will be used. New families will be added to the OAP waitlist in chronological order based on their date of referral.
-Service continuity: Families currently receiving direct funding will continue to receive funding throughout the transition, until a new direct funding option is implemented by the end of this year.
Beginning by the end of 2017:
-Ongoing engagement: The government will continue to engage with the OAP Advisory Committee, families, providers and other stakeholders throughout the transition to the new program.
-New support workers: Family Support Workers and Support Teams will be available to help families navigate the new program and to provide individualized support. These teams could include support workers, clinicians, educators, service providers and other experts that families wish to work with on their child’s progress.
-New appeals process: If families have concerns with their child’s plan for behavioural intervention, they will be able to request an independent review of the plan through a new appeals process.
-More treatment spaces: The number of treatment spaces will continue to increase, to reduce wait times and provide services sooner for all families in the OAP. When a child’s spot becomes available, the child’s family will be able to choose to receive service through direct funding or direct service.
-A choice of direct funding for all families: A new direct funding option will be available by the end of 2017 to all families who choose it. This will give families a clear, fair and transparent choice in their provider.
-Full implementation: By spring 2018, the new OAP will be fully in place.
-Ongoing engagement: Consultations with families and service providers will continue as the new OAP is fully implemented to ensure that the OAP meets the needs of families."
Over all I can only describe as a gamer. It felt like an over-hyped tease we see all the time in the gaming industry than anything useful. I just hope that unlike the gaming industry who hypes up game releases for a year with very little details, that on release day we don’t all feel like we’ve bought into something that quite clearly isn’t the product we expected, and that it’ll be too late to ensure things run smoothly, or to appropriately change. The lack of details today concern me very much as a parent.
I'm not sure patting each other on the back today is at all appropriate considering 21,000 families are still waiting for services while others are receiving "preferential" treatment. There are very real ethical and legal questions surrounding that. It's quite clear from what was announced today that the vast majority of families waiting for equal levels of service, will most likely have to wait pending the outcome of the 2018 provincial election. That is quite simply and unequivocally unacceptable.