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LETTER: Program, service and staff cuts coming at Autism Society NL

The Elaine Dobbin Centre for Autism in St. John’s.
The Elaine Dobbin Centre for Autism in St. John’s. - SaltWire Network
ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Autism Society, Newfoundland and Labrador (ASNL), cannot sustain present operations with current revenue streams. The provincial government itself is in a difficult financial situation and seems unable to increase the annual core fund, which provides 50 per cent of ASNL’s budget.

Government has helped reduce past deficits, streamlined some ASNL operations and just recently provided rent-free space for ASNL’s South-Central Regional Office in Grand Falls-Windsor. ASNL’s fundraised revenue provides the other 50 per cent of budgeted funds. However, that fundraised revenue has dropped 50 per cent annually ($300,000) since 2016. That annual $300,000 deficit, driven by the province’s economic downturn, has been crippling ASNL since 2016.

ASNL provides critical supports – social programs for children, youth and adults; navigation help for families; community engagement; advocacy; and job readiness/employment programs – for those on the spectrum and their families. N.L. has the highest incidence rate for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in Canada, at 1:57.

ASNL delivers specific services that government and others do not provide for the ASD community. Program participants have more than tripled since 2013. Community engagement reached almost 20,000 people in 2018, including more than 1200 First Responders since 2016.

If the lost fundraised revenues cannot be replaced quickly, there is no option but to cut programs and services. Staff layoffs will mean the loss of vital supports for the ASD community.

ASNL does not want to abandon any of those we serve, in any region of N.L. We make a real difference in the lives of those affected by ASD. But if the lost fundraised revenues cannot be replaced quickly, there is no option but to cut programs and services. Staff layoffs will mean the loss of vital supports for the ASD community.

Numerous and varied fundraising activities and events still occur.

They net approximately $325,000 and that helps cover some of the cost of delivering programs and services. But that amount is 50 per cent less than it was; it is not enough.

The core fund from government has not increased since 2012 and fundraised revenue has declined significantly since 2016. Costs for operations and staff have increased.

Autism Society NL needs $300,000 in additional funding annually, but it does not have one major corporate sponsor. Owning your own property and facilities, and employing trained, experienced staff to deliver programs and services to nearly 400 participants each semester is proving costly. Unfortunately, reductions will negatively impact participants, families, classrooms, community recreation facilities, employers, and the community at large.

ASNL makes a real difference in the lives of people affected by autism.

Without a community partnership with one or more corporate sponsors, and additional investment each year, access to programs, supports and services in our ASD community will continue to become more and more limited for children, youth, adults, their families and caregivers.                          

Scott Crocker, Chief Executive Officer, Autism Society NL
St. John’s


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