Fort St. John mother pushes back against B.C. Government over proposed changes to autism services
Published Thursday, November 25, 2021 5:13PM PST Last Updated Friday, November 26, 2021 8:19AM PST
FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. -- Jaandi Roemer is the mother of two children on the autism spectrum. She says proposed changes to the services they receive could push her family to the brink.
Wyatt Roemer, 8, is diagnosed with Autism and so is his older sister Savana, 11. Autism, along with other learning disabilities they are diagnosed with, make many daily activities a challenge.
Now the province could be making things worse by announcing possible changes to services that Wyatt and Savana rely on. Their mother is worried the new changes will ruin the routine that currently helps her family through a day.
"I’m stressing because I’m a single mom with one income. I’m stressing because I don't work so that I can support my children and I stay home. So now, if I have to pay for all of those therapies and travel, I have to get a job. If I get a job, I have to pay daycare. As soon as you mention you have children with special needs, the daycare costs go up by about 25 to 50 per cent."
Last month Mitzi Dean, Minister of Family Development, proposed changes that will change the current model to a "hub" format. The new change would see families like Roemer only access specific services in one centralized place. There are fears the centralized locations will in fact cause more travel for families and create a long waitlist to access generic non-specialized services.
Mike Bernier, MLA for Peace River South, says the proposed changes are more of a take down of the old system rather than an improvement and the NDP's plan could end up being a disaster
"We’ve seen the success over the last 20 years of this model that is worked and works well. Of course needs improvements, but you build on success, you don't tear it down and start over."
The Provincial Government is saying the new system would see a 28 per cent increase in the number of children eligible for disability supports and services. This due to a change that would see services offered to any youth or children, regardless of diagnoses for a mental disability.
While Bernier says including more children is a positive, the hub system is not the proper route to take.
“As the government tries to implement this into a hub system and to keep pushing back, they need to change course. They need to hit the pause button and start listening to the parents."
Toni Archambault of Scila Behavioural therapy in Fort St. John says this about the "hub" system and how it will effect children like Wyatt and Savana.
“With so much still unknown about these “hubs” there is no real concrete plan or ideas in place as of yet. If we were to become a “hub” there is a bit of fear as a business as well as for most families we service in regards to what services would look like for individualized therapy plans. None of the families we work with are one size fits all when it comes to the services and therapies we offer and so with this “hub” model one major concern is how we will be able to offer that individualized service that we pride ourselves on offering. We currently offer services to a very diverse group of families with very diverse needs and there is a fear that if we were to become a “hub” then we may not be able to work with some families who fall under differing categories and circumstances.”
Families like Jaandi's are worrying about being on wait lists or losing the current services all together. She is asking the community speak out.
"We are a silent community. To all you special needs families, I know we are silent but now is not the time! You need to speak up!"
Other families across B.C have taken to the steps of the legislature in Victoria, hoping the government hears their same message.