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Local MLA opposes provincial plan for care of neurodiverse children

The provincial government introduced a plan for family connection hubs aimed at providing supports for children and youth based on their needs.

However, Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka feels this is a one-size-fits-all approach. He said a group of parents gathered outside of the B.C. legislature building in opposition to the changes this week.

“There was a major outcry from parents and children and those that have autistic children,” said Shypitka. “What we’re seeing right now is the NDP government putting a bill through that will essentially strip away independent funding to those parents that have the ability to seek out service providers and tailor-make their care for the needs of their child.”

B.C. government officials said the one-stop family connections hubs will be a place where children and youth can access information, expert intervention and therapies. Officials add that supports will be based on a person’s individual needs without a diagnosis.

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“Currently, children have to wait for help until they are diagnosed. Many children, such as those with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, qualify for very few supports, even though they may have high needs,” said provincial government staff.

“The existing patchwork of programs has left too many children and youth with support needs behind,” said Mitzi Dean, Minister of Children and Family Development. “That’s why we’re putting children and youth at the centre of our new system and making it easier for families to get the high-quality services they need, regardless of where they live in the province.”
Shypitka believes this process will undo the work of some families who have already had success using customized treatments and therapies.

“Being needs-based, there will be a service worker who will give you access to these service providers. Our argument is that this isn’t a social issue as much as it is a medical condition,” said Shypitka. “Parents are fearful that they’re going to lose this independent funding, leading into something they’re not going to have control over.”

According to the B.C. government, the new hubs will only be available in the Northwest and Central Okanagan to start in 2023 before launching province-wide the following year.

“The new system will provide help to approximately 8,300 more children and their families, representing a 28 per cent increase in the number of children who will be able to access disability supports and services,” said B.C. government officials.

“Parents and caregivers who are receiving individualized autism funding and school-age extended therapy benefits will have the option to continue with the supports they have or to instead opt into the new hub services and supports. This choice will remain in place until 2025 when hubs will be available provincewide and individualized funding is phased out.”

The BC Liberal MLA has an alternative idea in mind when it comes to treating neurodiverse children and youth.

“Let’s build on what we have. Let’s not strip it down and create something that won’t identify specific needs for children,” said Shypitka. “Each child has to be specifically identified, diagnosed and treated. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, and that’s what the government is really trying to do here.”

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