Thursday, August 24, 2006

Autism Team at the Stan Cassidy Centre for Rehabilitation

Last week the government announced the funding of a dedicated autism team at the Stan Cassidy Centre for Rehabilitation. The announcement may not have received much notice from the general population but those involved with autism in New Brunswick are well aware of how important and positive this announcement was. Health Minister Brad Green and his advisors deserve hearty appaluse for establishing a dedicated autism team at the Stan Casssidy.

The Stan Cassidy has provided specialized health-care treatment for individuals with complex neurological conditions including many persons with autism. Over a year ago it was announced, largely because the provision of autism services was overwhelming the ability of the Stan Cassidy team to service its clientele, that autism services at the Stan Cassidy would be discontinued. The autism community was outraged. The autism patients being treated at the Stan Cassidy suffered from complex and dangerous problems. Withdrawal of the tertiary care services provided by the Stan Cassidy would place the health and safety of autistic persons with severe problems at greater risk.

The response of the decision makers at the Stan Cassidy, the River Valley Health Authority and the Department of Health was very positive and serious. A committee was struck to seek input and the result was a recommendation for a dedicated autism team at the Stan Cassidy. The addition of this team is expected to ease the backlog on admission and treatment of all patients with neurological problems.

In addition to Health Minister Green, Dr. Ron Harris of the Stan Cassidy and Dianne Morrison of River Valley Health Authority deserve special acknowledgement for making this happen. Others deserving of specific recognition for their contributions are Dawn Bowie of the Autism Society New Brunswick and Paul McDonnell, Professor Emeritus (Psychology) a well known figure in the autism community in New Brunswick.

Some have questioned whether the announcement of a dedicated autism team at the Stan Cassidy was politically motivated. While the actual timing of the announcement may have been influenced by political considerations, the recommendation itself followed months of careful examination and consideration of the problem and how to resolve it. The recommendation from the Committee had not been before government long - as time is measured in the government decision making process - before the announcement of a dedicated autism team at the Stan Cassidy was made.

Sometimes the system works. This time it worked for the autism communtiy.

Thanks again to all involved in making this happen.

Harold L Doherty

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