New plan to improve autism services

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The Ontario Government is investing more than $62 million this year to build capacity among service providers to deliver high quality clinical services for children and youth receiving support through the needs based Ontario Autism Program (OAP).

The Autism Workforce Capacity Action Plan, part of the province’s $600 million annual investment in the program, will expand access in rural and remote communities, provide new training for clinicians and allow service providers to hire and train new staff and support more families. These investments will enable the province to continue inviting and onboarding more children and youth into the needsbased OAP.

“Since becoming minister last month, I’ve heard from families and service providers about the need to continue building capacity in the sector to deliver a needsbased Autism program,” said Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services. “This investment will enable a stable, efficient, and skilled workforce so more families can access the core clinical services they need.”

“This new funding is another correct step as our government increases support for children and youth,” said Jim McDonell, MPP for Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry. “These program improvements will ensure that everyone has access and support for autistic families in rural and remote areas.”

The capacity action plan builds on the strong foundation of public and private providers who are currently serving children and youth with special needs across the Province. The plan was developed with input from the autism advisory panel, the implementation working group, service providers and families, and focuses on four objectives:

  • Stabilizing the workforce through new initiatives like the $14 million Workforce Capacity Fund which will support projects led by public and private service providers that improve access to core clinical services such as hiring new clinical staff, increasing hours for existing clinical staff or supporting service provider travel to serve children in rural or remote communities.
  • Enhancing skills and training by investing in new opportunities for more than 7,000 clinicians, including Indigenous Cultural Competency Training and mental health training to help build the workforce and enhance the knowledge and skills of clinicians.
  • Strengthening oversight by regulating behaviour analysts as a new profession under the College of Psychologists of Ontario and expanding the OAP Providers List of qualified clinicians which will promote consistency, professionalism, and safe, highquality service delivery across the Province.
  • Expanding access for rural, remote, Indigenous and francophone populations including funding for pilot projects that are building service capacity in northern Ontario. This will build on a new partnership between 15 public and private agencies in the north which are coordinating services to ensure children in the region are receiving support based on their needs.

“As a longstanding service provider organization and collaborative community partner in the region, we applaud the Minster’s recognition of the unique needs of the North and the commitment to make substantial investments in building capacity for both public and private providers, so that children and families impacted by Autism will have improved access to the services and support they need to live a full life,” said Liz Hathazi and Melanie Maunula, directors at Creative Therapy Associates in Thunder Bay. “The investments will create opportunities not only to be innovative and shape a system that is tailored for the region but to allow for adequate representation and engagement to ensure that cultural safety is a priority.”

“The capacity action plan is another example of our commitment to transforming the Ontario Autism Program,” said Minister Fullerton. “Expanding the workforce will further support the delivery of core clinical services under the new needsbased program, ensuring families can work with a clinician of their choice to develop a treatment plan based on their child’s individual needs and goals.”

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