Long Wait Times for Programs for Adults with Autism Still a Reality

Further to our stories back in April about longer wait times for Disability Assistance and accessing wheelchairs, wait times are back in the spotlight. On May 5th, CBC published a story of a B.C. father who was pleading with the government to help his 20-year son, Conner, who has autism. His efforts are linked to wait times for programs that help adults with autism.

Despite significant cognitive and language challenges, Conner thrived in support programs offered through his schools in Victoria. However, when he aged out of the school system at 19 and lost those supports, his behaviour became more than the family could handle. The family has had minimal options to help Conner with the long wait times for programs.

Conner has since been approved for residential care services through Community Living B.C. — the crown agency that provides housing and support for those with developmental disabilities. However, the agency can\’t say when a placement may be found, leaving Conner in a psychiatric facility that\’s not appropriate for his long-term needs.

Stories like Conner\’s are fairly common. A growing number of B.C. children are being diagnosed with autism — currently about one in every 51. With the rate of diagnosis on the rise, the support required for each child\’s transition to adulthood is an urgent issue for families, said Andrew Pinfold, director of operations at Autism B.C.

While that\’s an increase of several hundred million dollars over five years ago, the number of clients the agency serves has also increased in that time to 20,000, compared with around 15,000 five years ago. Community Living B.C. currently operates with a budget of $1.02 billion from the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. Social Development Minister Shane Simpson says he is confident Community Living B.C. has the funding it needs. He says delays in receiving services are often the result of trying to find the right fit for individuals with high needs.

Community Ventures Society (CVS) is fully aware of the continued issue of long wait times and the challenge of finding the right fit for individuals looking for adult programs. If these wait times were reduced, we would see more of the individuals get the care and support they need to improve their quality of lives. We are hopeful that by having more people speak up and more attention to this issue, change will happen in the future.