A Thursday rally in Ottawa by OPSEU members in support of public autism services earned extensive media coverage.
Global News, The Ottawa Citizen and News1310 all reported on the rally, which was organized by Local 474. About three dozen protesters showed up to send the Ford government the message that autism therapy is health care and should be covered by OHIP.
“Autism is a neurological disorder and is just like any other health issue,” said Shaun Reid, Local 474 President. “Autism is a life-long condition that doesn’t go away and kids with autism need to have consistent access to high-quality public services now so they will have bright futures as adults.”
In February, the Ford government made changes to the Ontario Autism Program by taking money away from regional agencies in favour of giving limited funds directly to parents, many of whom say won’t cover the cost of autism treatment.
“The Ministry of Health and Education also need to join the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services in administering public autism services,” said Reid. “Not only is autism a health issue, but kids with autism also need more educational assistants and behavior therapists in the classroom.”
Last month, the Ford government backtracked and says it will take a new direction on the autism program. But details are vague and the new autism plan won’t be implemented until April 2020.
“Kids can’t afford to wait that long for autism therapy,” said Reid. “They need public autism services now.”