The great leveler?

Earlier today, we exclusively told you the provincial government might eliminate its $5 million early intensive behavioural intervention program - which provides 70 children with "intensive one-to-one therapy" at a cost of $70,000 each. That decision was subsequently announced during a news conference where Children and Family Development Minister Mary Polak took questions about the program.

16 Comments

The reality is... this is complete nonsense. How can Mary Polak keep a straight face when saying this? She doesn't even spin it that well...

In one big chop the government of this province just destroyed 70 families. The future of those children has now been cast aside so we can use that money for what? The Olympic signs that are now going to be bilingual? The Olympic village? To electrify the north for big business?

The other change that was made was to force parents to move from invoice to direct style funding. This will mean the government (and families) will spend more administrative on costs. How is this better?

The extra 2K per family is simply to make the poison taste better.

What's next? Limit the service providers? Reduce funding for all? Increase wait times so once you do get funding it is too late? More hoops to jump through?

Shame on you Mary Polak for destroying these families and pretending to be so fair.

Good work Sean as always.

That said, I want to tread very carefully here with my comments as the resident Polakite. That disclaimer given, I have Aspegers + had some early intervention. It didn't work and may for others. There is a need for a holistic, positive environment that is long-lasting as well as equitable aid rather than just a quick shot early on hoping that these kids just magically become the next Holman, Polak or Luongo... or just integrate normally for that matter. In other words, the training wheels can't come off suddenly & Minister Polak is going to keep that from happening for all.

I agree with Minister Polak (and wish it was some other minister because regulars know I'm more credible being critical of her than supportive): The science around autism is changing and I'd be happy to go into detail. Put differently, like a good quarterback, she's changing the play at the line of scrimmage to get some yards.

One other thing - and w/ my own experiences (before I knew who Mary Polak was, just so you know) I like this change too:

Oh and everybody missed this from the Ministry:

"Effective October, 2009, the ministry will begin moving families from Direct? Funding to Invoice Payment in the Autism Funding Programs in order to improve accountability and increase efficiency.

o Direct Funding: Families manage their childs funds and pay service providers.

o Invoice Payment: Families choose the service but the ministry manages the childs funds and pays service providers when it receives an invoice."

Minister Polak alluded to this reform in code via her Tuesday evening reply to the budget (AKA "The Back in Black Speech") about giving families choice rather than gov't mandates. She said in fact:

When it comes down to how you support those families, it's by making sure they have more money in their pockets. It isn't about making sure they have an additional government program. For people like my parents, who struggled to raise a family on a limited income, they didn't want another government handout. They wanted to be able to have the power over their own destiny and to be able to make the choices for their families. I'm proud that that's what our budget does.

Just thought I should help Sean flesh things out. Sorry if I am gushing, but I prefer blogs and original source material w/ open source contributions for my news rather than MSM processing.

This change was made with zero consultation by a new minister who clearly understands very little about autism treatment, so it's no surprise that we're already hearing it will create more problems than it solves.

Cancelling the EIBI program eliminates an important option that ensured vulnerable parents who lacked the skills to design their own autism treatment program and effectively manage an autism budget could still get their children the services they need (not to mention the best bang for the taxpayers buck!). The accompanying move from direct funding to invoice payment for other families tells you that just cutting a cheque and expecting ordinary parents like myself to design and manage a professional medical intervention program for a highly complex disorder has not worked well in many cases

It also means more kids whose families can't spare an extra $20,000 - 50,000 a year will not get the intensive early therapy they need. Basically, they will have to choose between spending their funds on case management or treatment. $70,000 for 2 - 3 years is nothing compared to the millions in lifetime costs for the kids who will now get left behind.

And this is absolutely NOT about equity, because kids with other special needs still get zero to spend on therapy that is every bit as critical. Simply cutting every child autism spectrum disorder the same cheque is no more equitable than giving every heart disease patient the same budget - whether they require triple bypass surgery or simply some cholesterol-lowering drugs. As long as I can figure out how to spend it, I can get $6,000 a year from MCFD, while kids with far more urgent needs will go without a penny. If we viewed autism treatment as the legitimate medical issue that it is, the BCMA and CMA would be having conniptions over the lunacy of this delivery model and the Taxpayers Federation would be right there with them.

The bottom line is accountability. MCFD is now throwing almost $50 million a year at autism, with zero case management and zero accountability in terms of performance measures or monitoring to determine whether that money is actually being spent as effectively as possible and in ways that actually improve clinical outcomes. And cancelling the EIBI program means even less accountability.

(Oh and the extra $2,000 for kids under 6 should just about cover the extra HST costs that will have to come out of those budgets starting next July. The older kids will just have to tighten their belts and make do with that much less.)

Josef is obviously on government payroll. He (or she) says:
"The science around autism is changing and I'd be happy to go into detail." If you are going to make a blatant lie then yes I do expect details. ABA is the only proven therapy and has not changed much. Yes there are "popular" therapies and "sensationalized" therapies as seen on TV etc but the ASD community does not take these seriously as there is no supporting studies as there is for ABA.

Josef also goes on about "just a quick shot early on." Further proof this person has no idea about ASD. Josef please go back to back benching and stop the propaganda as you are not good at it.

If you are really a person with aspergers then name your consultant. You are fake and spreading lies.

Also it is obvious that mandating that we must use the invoice funding system will be more costly yet beneficial to the government as it will make it harder for parents to pay their providers. Just another way for the government to discourage parents from using these funds to care for their children.

It makes me sick that people like Josef and Polak exist (likely the same person).

Nothing would make me happier than to line up all the families and children you have destroyed and introduce you to each one.

I'm not going to dignify this with much of a response, considering the insults hurled at me. I'm not naming my consultant, thank you.

There are other therapies out there, not the least of which being Play and Language for Autistic Youngsters (PLAY). PLAY is on the ideal that...

"...The people who spend the most time with the children – their parents and carers – are the ones who can make the biggest difference. Children with autism find it difficult to process the sensory information coming at them and adapt by concentrating on one thing, such as running a toy car back and forth or jumping up and down, says Janert. She calls this a comfort zone activity; the actions are repetitive because the child can’t think what else to do. They are solitary and if you try to stop them, they get anxious and do it even more.

That children can focus on one thing means that they can tackle other things and learn to share and communicate, she says. “Don’t try to stop him but join him,” she says. “Tackle the solitary behaviour by giving him a taste for interactive play. Engage him through shared pleasure, not coercion.”"

If you read and/or listen to Minister Polak speak, she speaks a lot about empowering individuals & parents. Now that I am not on the gov't payroll, I don't have access to one-tenth the intel the Minister gets and would like to see the reports as well.

As far as the issue of equality, the Minister has limited resources to dole out in an era when tax shifts are more acceptable than tax increase$. Thanks Sean for saying "absolutely" Mary had on the "brave face" on CFAX.

Josef K says: "There are other therapies out there"
Yes there are. But none have the scientific backing that ABA does. The government often uses this to confuse the issue but the reality is ABA works, is proven and has the scientific studies to prove it. Play and others are just snake oil. This is just government positioning to take the attention away from what they are doing here which is to reduce funding. Very transparent.

Minister Polak does not know the first thing about Autism nor does she care about the families or children she impacts. If she did she would listen to the Austism community and work with us to ensure all children got the help they need. She is not empowering. She is destroying.

Limited resources? The Olympics are not limited by this. The Gateway project is not limited by this. The Light up the North project is not limited by this. I suppose if our children were CEOs of big business their ABA would get better funding but unfortunately they don't vote and don't have the funds to back an election.

This has nothing to do with equality. The 2K is nothing and the real change is moving from direct to invoice. This will create huge issues for all and dramatically increase the administration costs of the funding.

The reason Josef does not name his consultant is because he does not have one... Shame on you Josef for being part of what is destroying the only chance these children have. I hope you can sleep at night for the damage you, Polak and others are doing. Shame!

My family is one of the 70 families being affected by this cut. I have heard EIBI referred to as the "Cadillac" of funding for autism therapy. This is ridiculous, all kids on the spectrum deserve the "Cadillac" funding and definitely more than the $22 000 per year the govt is providing. I feel fortunate that my son has been able to participate in this program before it became extinct. I believe that grandfathering of this program should occur. How can the success/results of this program be measured when children are being pulled out of it half-way? Our government needs to see that all kids should have access to this program instead of taking it away from those already in it and giving a small increase in autism funding per year. When speech and occupational therapy sessions cost approximately $100 per hour, not to mention the cost of having a Behaviour Interventionist provide ABA therapy; the $22 000 will not go far. When our government is spending so much money on the 2010 Olympics and can not pay $70 000 per year for a child with autism to receive adequate therapy...it makes me very disheartened. If our children do not receive adequate therapy now where will they be when they are young adults? Most likely a burden on the taxpayers. My son has moderate autism and I know that without the intensive therapy he has received throughout the last year and a half that we would not have seen such progress and growth in his development. Brett's Mom in Kelowna.

I spent most of my time in remedial math in high school, so perhaps another commenter can enlighten me on the math Polak is using.

(Josef K, perhaps you might be willing to correct my math for me)

She is dropping a $5 million program and upping funding to roughly 800 children under age 6 another $2,000 per (which my calculator states is $1.6 million) and is redirecting another $1 million on a new outreach program...and assuming that the 70 children now in EIBI will be moved to straight autism funding at $22,000 per year (total cost: $1.54 million), we have a grand total of $4.14 million. Minus that from the $5 million EIBI program costs and Ms. Polak has a net savings of $860,000. Could this be a major chunk of the $1.6 million that she espouses the Liberals are increasing autism funding by this year? Again, remedial math and all, isn't that is just about 50% of this "generous" increase?

How about spending that $860,000 in overall savings on increasing the ridiculously low figure of $500/mo on children over 6 who receive autism funding? That should work out to about an additional $172 per month. Hell, if you add her savings to the - ahem - $1.6 million that she beaks off about adding to the funding pot, then those 5,000 children over 6 years could have an additional $492 per month for a total of $992 per month - almost double.

I suspect, however, the savings of $860,000 will be spent on hiring more accountants and administrators to manage funds once all we move to invoices (gee, with my math skills maybe I should apply for a job).

Either that or this is how the Liberals plan to pay for the ever ballooning cost of the Olympics.

Don't even get me started on the bull of $16,000 to the schools per special needs child to provide "in-school interventions and services" - the big justification for drastically lowering funding for the over 6 crowd. My son has been on a waitlist since he started K for the district's occupational and speech therapy services. Come on, that amount doesn't even cover the wages of his SEA.

Who do they think really swallows this stuff?

Since you continue with the personal attacks, I'm not going to respond any further to you directly.

I will say that the Olympics spending is capped, the economy needs stimulus - hence the transmission line and Concerned Mommy may have a point. The problem is the # of ASD persons is growing, hence rationing... hence why so much upset in America about socialization of health care.

That said, I just wonder if any of you want to tell the world you're cutting the Olympics with less than five months to go... and a zillion contracts signed & binding. Just curious how you'd pay for this treatment - which I and I can assure you Min. Polak never called Cadillac... and please, no more personal attacks. Thanks!

Josef: I noticed you like to post on other Polak sites. Strange coincidence...

I find it also interesting that you say this is rationing. Obviously you know more than we do but I would say you are right. We are being rationed so these funds can be used elsewhere (ie big business ventures like Light up the North). What's next? Limit the providers? Please tell us!

Would I tell the world to stuff the Olympics? In a second. The Olympics are a well known cancer that is only prosperous for big business and actually detrimental to people like us.
Those contracts are between government and big business. Do I care if they fill their pockets less? Absolutely not. Unfortunately however I can't make the choice of saving the children.

I am not giving you a personal attack. I am just calling it what it is. People like you and Polak should be ashamed.

REPLY TO: Concerned Person | September 18, 2009 5:22 PM | Reply

This time, you didn't give a personal attack - thanks :-)

Carole James did bash the Olympics repeatedly and she didn't get to be called Premier (read the people appreciate athleticism and community spirit). The Olympics will be a massive economic boom to B.C. as well which will increase revenue to BC gov't coffers. At least now I know where you stand - anti-business, which creates the jobs and pays the majority of the taxes. I am pro-business, skeptical of big corporations and for social liberalism.

Electricity for people is really a progressive cause. After all, in the north as well there is heavy use of fossile fuels (diesel, gasoline, coal) to make electricity instead of hydro & other renewables. Can't believe you think that's a solution...

I'd recommend instead a new Core Services Review and have a prioritized budget. Perhaps the Public Affairs Bureau can be shrunk. Perhaps some of the extra ministries can be boiled down to much smaller offices or eliminated. Perhaps all taxpayer-funded salaries should be capped at the Premier's level... the list goes on. Suggestions welcome!

That said, I wish I worked in a place before this happened where I had the intel or the briefing books to possibly tell my fav Minister to reconsider. But this Aspie does support grudingly and loyally the decision. One of my biggest gripes w/ the BCLibs is their lack of commitment to open government.

Josef: I hope you are well compensated for the government propaganda you pump out.

The Olympics will not be a massive economic boom to BC. For anyone who thinks otherwise I ask for proof. It is costing us a fortune and it is we the public who pay for this out of our tax dollars. It is our children that pay as the care is taken away from them.

I am not anti-business. I work hard to support my family and my children. I work two jobs and barely see them just so they can have their ABA therapy.

The government is doing projects that benefit the shareholders of big business. It has nothing to do with those businesses people like me and others work for. Unfortunately I am not on the board of a logging or mining company. Are you?

I don't care what your suggestions are on government as it is obvious your posts are seeded propaganda. The issue at hand is this terrible decision your friend Polak has done to harm our children.

If you are loyal to a decision like this then you are a destroyer of humanity.

Concerned Person, if you fling comments at people you dissent like "a destroyer of humanity", "government propaganda", "seeded propaganda" and "being part of what is destroying the only chance these children have"... it's hard to have a discussion. But I guess people like you like to dynamite the table and risk surviving when you feel you have no other options.

Since you believe what I say is "seeded propaganda", it's very hard to have a civilized discussion and mention things like oh, the Royal Bank of Canada projected up to $10 Billion in economic stiumulus to B.C. That's up to $10 billion going to business to employ people like you to spend in the economy to give to other businesses & the government to serve & employ more people.

Or I could mention that I don't work for the BC government, thank you.

Or I could mention that if you have a pension or any kind of investment you are a shareholder someway somehow.

Or I could mention that I am incredibly and increasingly critical of the sluggish pace towards open gov't - if there is a pace - of the Campbell administration.

Civility from you would serve you well, methinks.

The province needed to eliminate this program. How can you provide a Cadillac of service to one group and not afford the same level of service to another? This ignores the fact that reviews of the intensive intervention models such as used in the EIBI program have demonstrated that, while they are effective, they are not as efficient as other models of service -- equally good services can be had for less money. The autism lobby in the States has done a wonderful job at brainwashing the autism community that there is only one logical way to address autism. This is wrong.

Now if Minister Polak wanted to something meaningful, she would eliminate the whole autism program and eliminate diagnosis-based funding. I have heard of such appalling waste within the autism program; it needs to be rethought. There are many children with special needs that would love a fraction of the service that autistic families receive. Why is a child with cerebral palsy less deserving than a child with autism? Both need substantial early services in order to develop to their potential. An autistic child will now receive over 22k in services, the child with cp will need to get by with about 2k (about half of what would be reasonable). Where is the equity?

Do the right thing, Minister Polak. Your predecessors have only proved only willing to do what was politically expedient.

FosterR | September 21, 2009 5:06 PM

Since I have called out the left/anti-Polak forces, I have to call you out sir/ma'am. Calling this "a Cadillac of service" is extremely hurtful to these parents and will not help our cause of fairness for all disabled persons + support for the raw oratorical & intellectual firepower + moxie that is Mary Polak. Now I've spoken of a low-cost alternative to the ASD

That said, I otherwise see your point. There are many good defenses of this latest Polak attack. Perhaps Stephanie Cadieux can lead a "Conversation on Disabilities" just as there was a "Conversation on Health"...

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