Putting Children and Youth First: Integrating Autism and Mental Health Services in Ontario
Research indicates that children and youth with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have significantly higher rates of mental health issues than kids in the general population. The prevalence of mental health disorders in young people with autism is more than four times higher than in their non-ASD peers.
These young people often go undiagnosed and are underserved by a system that currently treats youth with autism and those with mental health needs as two separate and distinct populations. The lack of appropriate services leads to the increased use of hospital emergency departments, chemical restraints and secure isolation.
Developed with the input of over 20 child and youth autism and mental health providers and leaders from across the province, Putting Children and Youth First: Integrating Autism and Mental Services in Ontario, looks at the scientific literature, examines the challenges associated with serving this population, reflects the lived experiences of families trying to cope with this dual diagnosis, and puts forward recommendations to improve service development and delivery.
This paper was developed from Kinark’s extensive review of research evidence and our own experience as a residential treatment provider. Through the paper, Kinark calls on government and its service provider colleagues to commit to a vision of a true system of services for children and youth with mental health issues that is rooted in strong capacity for individual assessments and partnerships with families in their children’s care.
Families and providers are also expressing concerns about the capacity of the current system of child and youth mental health services to contribute to better outcomes for complex clients along with the limited number of residential programs that are equipped to safely and effectively serve highly complex children and youth.
Kinark believes that the evidence outlined in this paper contributes a strong and compelling call to action and that there is an opportunity now to begin redeveloping the decades-old system through the formation of a clear policy framework and a comprehensive provincial service plan.
Kinark is proud to contribute its perspective to this effort through this paper, in support of our ongoing collaborative work with our partners.