In what is becoming an all too familiar story for families affected by autism, funding for programs for children has been slashed.
Parents of children with autism in Regina, Canada are disappointed and concerned as a number of popular summer programs have been scaled back or cut altogether.
“You fight every day for services, and the summer program is the one time a year you get intensive services for five weeks, and then you really have nothing for the rest of the year,” Rip Smith said, whose son Max enjoyed the summer program.
The reason for the cuts to funding, which have reduced the five week program to two weeks, appears to be bureaucratic red tape.
In a field where highly trained and experienced professionals are a commodity, policies of the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region are fencing out a large selection of qualified service providers.
The Autism Resource Center, who receives about one third of their funding from the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region, says they are unable to contract service providers as the regions does not allow the agencies it funds to take the money and use it to contract services from someone else.
Parents are frustrated by these policies affecting the services their children receive however, the region is in discussions to find ways to make up for the reduced summer programs.
In New York state a new law signed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in January will force private insurance providers to cover the treatment of autism spectrum disorders — a big help for many families who must pay for therapies or diagnoses out-of-pocket. But the law applies to things like physical, occupational and speech therapies, not programs administered with Medicaid funds like those provided by the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities.
Medicaid funds pay for services like respite and community habilitation services, and recreation programs. But a change to the state’s waiver system, and the perennial threats of cuts to Medicaid funding in Washington have families affected by autism worried.
According to The Arc’s 2011 Family and Individual Needs for Disability Supports (FINDS) survey 62 percent of families report services being cut in their communities, and 43 percent said services were cut at their schools.
There are also concerns in the autism community over families no longer being eligible for funding following changes to the definition of autism spectrum disorders in the upcoming volume of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.