A $1 million infusion from the state is helping Easterseals Southern California kick-start the development of more services for children with autism who develop severe behaviors that can isolate them in school and the community.
The money was secured with the help of Assemblyman Steven Choi and will launch a fundraising campaign by the Irvine-headquartered Easterseals to raise another $6 million to $7 million to open a new Orange County facility and significantly expand its Severe Behavior Services Program.
Currently, the program can help about 18 or so children, working intensively with them for several months at a time to address severe behaviors, such as “repeated, sudden episodes of impulsive, aggressive, violent behavior or angry verbal outbursts” that can develop and lead to isolation for the children and their families.
Working with children in a more neutral environment like the new state-of-the-art center planned, with all the equipment and safety measures and furnishings, can help with developing the tools and strategies to bolster children to be more independent or maybe return to a classroom setting, said Dr. Paula Pompa-Craven, chief clinical officer for Easterseals.
Easterseals is the largest autism services provider in Southern California and helps more than 13,000 children and their families a year.
In 2020, when it absorbed the Center for Behavioral Sciences outpatient program, it started to work more with children displaying the more severe behaviors.
Pompa-Craven said Easterseals discovered, working with the more knowledgeable staff of the CBS program, how many “individuals are falling through the cracks because of the severity of their behaviors,” and there wasn’t really another center-based program available like this in California.
“Families were having to go out of state to get these intensive behavior services,” she said, adding Easterseals wants to grow its offerings with more crisis intervention, research, training for professionals and resources for families.
With a new building, Pompa-Craven said Easterseals could start helping upward of 100 children at a time – creating probably that many jobs as well.
And once the fundraising is successful for a new building, she said a program would be self-sustaining because it would be covered by most health care insurance.
“This is such a needed service,” Pompa-Craven said.”The challenge is the startup.”
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