Charlottetown MP calls for national autism strategy
Last Updated: Wednesday, November 29, 2006 | 3:26 PM ET
Recent federal initiatives to help people cope with autism don't go far enough, says a Charlottetown MP behind a private member's bill that calls for a national strategy on the neurological disorder.
'A little bit for research, a little bit on surveillance, but nothing else.'— MP Shawn Murphy
The Nov. 21 announcement by federal Health Minister Tony Clement provided $800,000 for research and education, including a new research chair, an autism symposium and an autism page on the Health Canada website.
But Charlottetown MP Shawn Murphy, a Liberal, said the federal Tories need to do more to provide more equal levels of care across the country.
Shawn Murphy says the government's program is 'very limited.'
Murphy has a private member's bill that will be debated next week in the House of Commons that calls for a national autism strategy with health care coverage for autism treatment and therapies.
"There has to be a national strategy," said Murphy.
"Right now we have tremendous differences between what is offered in British Columbia, what is offered in Alberta and Ontario and what is offered in some of the Atlantic regions."
Murphy said there shouldn't be that kind of variation to treat a common neurological disorder. In fact, autism rates are on the rise in Canada, affecting an estimated 150,000 children.
"It's mind-boggling, the difference. This is a health issue. It's not a social services issue. It's a health issue. And it should be treated as such under the Canada Health Act."
Autism activists were unimpressed with the initiatives announced by Clement, saying there are lots of good internet resources on autism. They said more money is needed for therapies already known to be effective.
"It's a very limited announcement. A little bit for research, a little bit on surveillance, but nothing else," said Murphy.
Autism therapy can cost $60,000 a year, but activists argue that is infinitely less than the cost of leaving people untreated, which can lead to institutionalization for the autistic person and cause families to break apart under the stress of raising an autistic child.