Autism cases in California have spiked dramatically since the early 1980s. California's Department of Developmental Services had about 3,000 autism cases in the early 1980s, but today counts 73,000. This number only reflects those deemed eligible for Regional Center services and excluded many tens of thousands who are disabled by autism but considered insufficiently incapacitated to warrant eligibility.
Approximately 5,000 new autism cases enter the DDS system each year. Though once a rare disorder, autism cases now represent about 70% of Regional Center intakes.
Our Developmental Services system was not designed to serve such a large population of adults with autism, mainly because so few adults with autism existed in the state until fairly recently. Day programs, housing solutions, and case management were designed for intellectual disability, Down's syndrome and CP primarily. The system has not caught up with the breathtaking reality of the autism explosion and has failed to do any comprehensive needs assessment for this ever-growing population.
The California Adult Autism Needs Assessment will help address this urgent need for long-term planning so government and private entities can collaborate to provide lifespan care for this dependent and often difficult-to-serve population.
A Needs Assessment would have at least four sections:
1. Overview of DDS autism population, segmented by birth year cohorts and general level of support needs (from minimal support to maximum support).
2. Overview of non-DDS autism population, estimated based on Department of Education records.
3. An assessment of average annual costs to support DDS autism adults, via Purchase of Service through Regional Center, IHSS, medical, affordable or subsidized housing. Average costs based on functional level of the adult, and based on living in family home with parents or living outside family home in a licensed facility or with supported living.
4. A projection of Adult Autism Services needs from 2015-2025, based on population characteristics and average costs per case.
Autism Society San Francisco Bay Area looks forward to collaborating with entities throughout the state to promote the Needs Assessment, and we will keep you apprised of our progress.