Thank you to all who signed the petition!
Families on Martha’s Vineyard have recently learned that state funding is no longer available to support their sons and daughters on the autism spectrum who are leaving the public school system. By law, students cannot be enrolled in school after their 22nd birthday. In this year alone, four students are turning 22, or “aging-out” of the school system: one in December, two in January and one in March.
A Statewide Crisis
The Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services (DDS) typically administers funding to applicants meeting these criteria. DDS offers an array of supports for families, including residential supports, day services, employment services, and individual service coordination. However, funding for these services has suddenly dried up. Furthermore, it is not clear when funds will be available again.
The ARC of Massachusetts has highlighted the causes of this crisis. While funding has remained level since 2008, the population of students needing services through DDS has increased 50%, steadily rising from 630 in 2010, to 950 in 2017. There is simply not enough funding budgeted to support this growing population. As a result, we are now nearing a thousand students per year who will not have access to services.
This unprecedented situation puts families in an untenable position. They face the possibility of being forced out of work, because their son or daughter would otherwise be home alone. School programs are designed to hand-off support to one-on-one aides, vocational programs, and residential programs funded by DDS. Students have been preparing themselves for this transition. To learn that it is suddenly gone is terrifying for those on the autism spectrum who survive on routine.
Please Advocate and Donate
Families, as well as all of us, need to advocate for adequate funding. Please sign our petition on change.org. And contact your elected officials.
As a result, our campaign for an Island Autism Center has never been more urgent. The center will be a sustainable, community-based resource, providing respite, training, programs, and other supports to ensure that situations like this will never happen again.
Sullivan, M., & Fiske, C. (2016, December 6). Important Facts about the Turning 22 Crisis. The ARC Massachusetts.