TORONTO, August 7, 2014 –
While more than 93,000 adults in Ontario
are affected by the challenges of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), many go
undiagnosed for far too long. Without appropriate diagnostic and mental health
services, many of these adults suffer in isolation. To address this emerging
issue, care providers from across Ontario
have joined together to create the Ontario Working Group on Mental Health and Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Members of the newly formed Ontario Working Group on Mental Health and Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (From Left to Right) Dr. Doug Weir, former president of Ontario Medical Association; Senator Jim Munson; Susan Burton-Bowler, advocate for adults with ASD; Sally Ginter, President and CEO of Kerry’s Place; Dr. Kevin Stoddart Director of the Redpath Centre; Dr. Kwame McKenzie, Medical Director at CAMH
“Adults with ASD often struggle with mental health issues--
often undiagnosed or untreated due to lack of understanding of ASD in the
mental health field,” says Dr. Kevin Stoddart, Co-Chair of the working group
and Director of the Redpath Centre in Toronto.
“We formed this working group because we need to be more informed and responsive
to those with ASD and co-occurring mental health issues.”
People with ASD face unique challenges and are often unable
to find or keep employment, gain independence, find friends and partners, or
function in post-secondary education. Mental health issues like anxiety and
depression are also common for adults with ASD and can significantly impact
61-year- old Susan Burton-Bowler only learned she had autism
at age 35. Throughout her life Susan also struggled with mental illness
including obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety and depression. Diagnosis, treatment
and education about autism have helped Susan manage her mental health and
maintain a healthy life.
“I hope this group will help us understand how we can make
the process of diagnosis easier so that people can be better connected to the
services they need,” said Burton-Bowler, now an advocate for adults living with
The Ontario Working Group on Mental Health and Adults with ASD, created to
identify and help respond to the complex needs of this group, is composed of
representatives from major providers of mental health services, professional
medical and allied health groups, and leading autism spectrum organizations.
“Working together and collaborating across the system is the
first step to improving care for this marginalized patient group,” said Dr.
Kwame McKenzie, Medical Director, Underserved Populations, CAMH. “The working
group will provide ongoing opportunities for psychiatrists and primary care physicians
to learn more about clinical and lifespan issues adults with ASD face.”
Ontario Working Group on Mental Health and Adults with ASD is
composed of representatives from major providers of mental health services,
professional medical and allied health groups, and leading autism spectrum
organizations. Current participants include: the Ontario Medical Association
(OMA), Geneva Centre for Autism, Autism Ontario,
the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), The Redpath Centre, University of Toronto, Kerry’s Place Autism Services, Surrey
Place Centre, Ontario Association of Social Workers, Association of General
Hospital Psychiatric Services, Ontario Hospital Association, North York General Hospital,
and College of Family Physicians of Canada.
Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
(416) 535- 8501 ext. 36015