Local OPSEU branch to hold rally in Ottawa calling for increased autism services

Todd Smith, minister of children, community and social services. Global News

Members of Ontario’s public service union will be holding a rally in Ottawa on Thursday calling for the province to increase public autism services.

“The Ford government’s changes to the Ontario Autism Program [have] caused enormous distress to families and forced them to take to the streets to demand what their children need,” OPSEU wrote in a release.

READ MORE: Ford government backs off changes to autism funding plan

OPSEU Local 474, which is organizing the rally, represents 131 employees who work in autism services at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. Shaun Reid, president of the union’s 474 branch in Ottawa, says the rally is being held to shed some light on the concerns employees have with the current services.

The union is calling for “more consistent and reliable autism services provided by professionals and high-quality, needs-based autism services administered by the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services that is publicly funded.”

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“The best way to provide autism care is through public services,” the union said in its release. “They cost less, they’re accessible to everyone and save the government money in the long run. Let’s tell the Ford government to put people before profits.”

Reid added: “Autism is health care and should be funded under our health-care plan and not provided as community service. Autism is a neurological disorder, and like any other health issue, that is treated and covered.”

READ MORE: Ontario government to regulate ABA therapists who support people with autism

According to the province, consultations are set to begin this fall in order to determine the best way to regulate and provide oversight of applied behavioural analysis clinicians in Ontario.

The province says it hopes this improved oversight will result in:

  • Consistency in ethics and professional standards to promote a higher level of trust between families and practitioners
  • Clearly defined educational and ongoing quality-assurance requirements for clinicians to improve consistency in treatment
  • A mechanism for families to report complaints about providers to reduce the risk of harm

“We are acting on the clear direction we’ve received from experts and families of children with autism,” said Todd Smith, minister of children, community and social services, in a release.

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“Across Ontario, hundreds of men and women go to work every day to help children and youth. Our commitment is that behavioural clinicians will be regulated like other health professionals.”

The rally is scheduled for Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Ontario government building at 347 Preston St.

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