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Advocacy

2023 Budget: No Investment to Address the Autism Assessment Crisis

April 20th, 2023

Julia Boyle

For Everyone

Despite consistent advocacy from the autism community, the 2023 budget shows nothing regarding the 2 to 3-year waitlist for public autism assessments for children and youth.  

AutismBC’s Executive Director Julia Boyle says, “We welcomed Premier Eby and Minister Dean’s November 2022 announcement, which committed to maintaining Individualized Autism Funding. We appreciate access to this parent-directed funding for those that have a diagnosis. It provides families with choice and the continuity of services and supports with the allied professionals that have established relationships with their children. What we don’t appreciate is the ongoing neglect of the provincial autism assessment waitlist. Three years is a long time to wait in a child’s life. What happens during these years they are waiting? Their brains, bodies, and identities develop without the support they need. This has a devastating impact on development and quality of life. Access to assessments is necessary to access services and self-awareness and understanding.” 

Despite efforts to connect with the Ministry of Health to discuss investments and solutions, the BC government remains silent. The 2023 BC Budget lacks clarity on the status of funding for autism assessments or strategies to address the ballooning autism assessment waitlist. AutismBC has concerns that the growing waitlist has not been a priority for the BC government and feels its neglect of this issue is a conscious strategy to contain the Individualized Autism Funding Program budget.  

As a continuation of the advocacy we did at the 2023 budget consultation in June and in our Family Connection Centre Report, we are once again pushing alongside our advocacy partners for the bc government to eliminate the waitlist for autism assessments and diagnosis and to explore ways to accelerate early access to an autism diagnosis. By directly investing in the diagnostic system, the BC government would improve equity, inclusion, and the immediacy of support. It would also address the inequity in the current two-tiered diagnostic system, favouring wealthier families that can afford a private autism assessment. In 2018, the Representative for Children and Youth highlighted in the Alone and Afraid Report the need to reduce the wait time for an assessment of autism and behavioural and developmental conditions and diagnosis to 3 months. Longer wait times impede the benefits of early intervention. We request the Complex Developmental Behavioural Conditions (CDBC) and BC Autism Assessment (BCAAN) Networks budget be indexed to the assessment waitlist to ensure it has the budget and staff to eliminate the waitlist. Another crucial factor in timely diagnosis is travel support for families living far from diagnostic centres or travel budgets for those that provide assessments to travel to families. 

Furthermore, we stand in solidarity with the Down syndrome, ADHD, learning disabilities and Dyslexia, children with medical complexities, the deaf and hard of hearing, and the FASD communities, and the undiagnosed or those with undiagnosable support needs. The BC Disability Collaborative on CYSN published a letter on April 17, 2023, in the pursuit of better investments for under or unserved children and youth with disabilities.  

Read the letter here: BCDC Budget short statement

MCFD 2023 Budget Overview

“New investments of $34.5 million for services to children and youth with support needs that are currently underserved, enhanced engagement and evaluation of the family connections centre pilots. 

The 2023-2024 budget will: 
    • Provide $4 million dollars for the engagement and service delivery planning to meet its obligations under the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. 
    • Add $6 million of additional investments to implement the four family connections centre pilots.  
    • Provide funding for an additional 90 foundational program therapists across the province for programs such as infant development, early intervention, and school-aged therapies through investment in Childhood Development Centres or similar organizations in every community in the province. 
    • Double the budget for the Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder Key Worker program, which will allow support for approx. 2,500 additional families of children and youth with FASD.  
    • Increase agency-coordinated respite by 60% to enable the program to expand to all regions of the province.
    • Add an additional 175% above the province’s current investment in School-Aged Extended Therapy by doubling hourly reimbursement rates from $80/hr to $160/hr and increasing the annual maximum reimbursement to $5,760 per year.
  • In addition to targeted program funding, Budget 23/24: 
    • Provides social work and therapist assistants to support social workers and therapists to spend more time with children, youth, and families.
    • Expands access to ‘city-based remote workers.’
    • Encourages additional workers into the sector through post-secondary and graduate incentives to attract new workers.
  • These additional supports are in addition to the Province’s commitment to continue individualized autism funding made in November 2022.
  • Additional investments of $6 million for the implementation of the four family connection centre pilots.”

 

 

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