MAAC is Taking on Growing Demand in Community
“Your child has autism.”
For parents, those four words produce a wave of emotions, from relief at having an answer, a reason, for a child’s struggles, to anguish at the thought of the challenges that lie ahead.
Emotional support, factual information and clinical expertise are vital to kids and families as they begin to fulfill a positive future.
The MetroHealth Autism Assessment Clinic (MAAC) is in its fifth year providing that support, education and guidance to children and families. In 2018 alone, MAAC served 772 children; more than half were age 5 and under. The clinic is on track to see almost 1,000 children this year.
In addition to its status as the only autism assessment clinic on Cleveland’s west side, MAAC is the only clinic in Ohio (and one of very few in the country) that accommodates and embraces the language and cultural needs of Hispanic patients and families.
The need for autism services for Spanish-speaking members of our community is urgent. Too many children are struggling without a diagnosis or care.
But that is changing.
The gift made by JoAnn and Bob Glick will double the number of bilingual staff at MAAC, said Director Melissa Armstrong-Brine, PhD, a clinical psychologist in the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. That, in turn, will greatly reduce a wait list that stretches 9 to 12 months out for an initial appointment.
“The Glicks are helping us reach people that need us, a population with pretty significant health care disparities who are really vulnerable because of the cultural stigma surrounding autism spectrum disorder,” Dr. Armstrong-Brine said.
MAAC is also one of few places in Cleveland where children over age 10 can get screened for autism. A multidisciplinary approach – including child psychologists, a behavioral pediatrician, clinical social workers and speech-language therapists – is used to diagnose school-aged children and adolescents.
Referrals to MAAC come from MetroHealth pediatricians, who are encouraged to screen for autism at least twice before a child turns 3. Other agencies and organizations, including the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and Cuyahoga County Department of Children and Family Services, also refer patients to MAAC.
“It’s important that children’s social and cognitive skills are developed, so they can establish a positive sense of self at a much earlier age and find and maintain employment and nurture relationships as they get older,” said Dr. Armstrong-Brine.
“We doubt that we could do what we do if it weren’t for people like the Glicks,” she said.
The MetroHealth System, Cuyahoga County’s public health system, is honoring its commitment to create a healthier community by building a new hospital on its main campus in Cleveland. The building and the 25 acres of green space around it are catalyzing the revitalization of MetroHealth’s West Side neighborhood.
MetroHealth broke ground on its new hospital in 2019. The project is being financed with nearly $1 billion the system borrowed on its own credit after dramatically improving its finances. In the past five years, MetroHealth’s operating revenue has increased by 40% and its number of employees by 21%. Today, its staff of nearly 8,000 provides care at MetroHealth’s four hospitals, four emergency departments and more than 20 health centers and 40 additional sites throughout Cuyahoga County. In the past year, MetroHealth has served 300,000 patients at more than 1.4 million visits in its hospitals and health centers, 75% of whom are uninsured or covered by Medicare or Medicaid.
The health system is home to Cuyahoga County’s most experienced Level I Adult Trauma Center, verified since 1992, and Ohio’s only adult and pediatric trauma and burn center.
As an academic medical center, MetroHealth is committed to teaching and research. Each active staff physician holds a faculty appointment at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Its main campus hospital houses a Cleveland Metropolitan School District high school of science and health.
For more information, visit metrohealth.org.