B.C. boosts help for autistic adults

Staff training, more job opportunities and improved access to housing and health care head a list of planned improvements to a B.C. government program that supports adults with autism and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.

The government has increased the program budget to $18.7 million this year from about $14 million. The budget is projected to increase to $22.5 million by 2016-17.

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Community Living B.C., the Crown agency that oversees the program, expects to provide new or enhanced services to more people as a result, said interim chief executive officer Doug Woollard.

“What it will allow us to do is to keep pace with the folks who are coming to us new each year,” he said, adding that program sees 170 to 180 new people a year.

About 650 were registered in the program as of Dec. 31.

Woollard said the Personal Supports Initiative program has grown steadily since being introduced in 2009-10.

Most of the people are under the age of 25, and 75 per cent of them have autism spectrum disorder.

The plan to improve the program will roll out over the next 18 months and stems from discussions with families, staff and the people who receive the services, Woollard said.

Faith Bodnar, executive director of the advocacy group Inclusion B.C., welcomed the upgrades.

“I think it will absolutely make a difference,” Bodnar said. “We always need increased funding, and I think that this is a group of people who often fall through the cracks because their needs cross a lot of issues.”

The program was started to serve people who did not meet the criteria for having a developmental disability, but still face significant challenges. “[The program] has expanded every year since it began, which is good,” she said.

lkines@timescolonist.com

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