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 is redefining health care by going beyond medical treatment to improve the foundations of community health and well-being: affordable housing, a cleaner environment, economic opportunity and access to fresh food, convenient transportation, legal help and other services. The system strives to become as good at preventing disease as it is at treating it.
The system’s more than 600 doctors, 1,700 nurses and 7,800 employees go to work each day with a mission of service, to their patients and to the community. As Cuyahoga County’s safety-net health system, MetroHealth plays an essential role in the region, caring for anyone and everyone, regardless of an ability to pay.
Founded in 1837, MetroHealth operates four hospitals, four emergency departments and more than 20 health centers and 40 additional sites throughout Cuyahoga County. The system serves more than 300,000 patients, two-thirds of whom are uninsured or covered by Medicare or Medicaid.
MetroHealth 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 research and to teaching and training tomorrow’s caregivers. Each active staff physician holds a faculty appointment at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Its main campus hospital houses the Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s Lincoln-West School of Science & Health, the only high school in America located inside a hospital.
Knowing that good health is about much more than good medical care, MetroHealth has launched the Institute for H.O.P.E.™ (Health, Opportunity, Partnership, Empowerment), which uses a coordinated, collaborative and strategic approach to help patients with non-medical needs such as healthy food, stable housing and job training.
The MetroHealth Glick Center, a new 11-floor hospital, is under construction on the system’s main campus in Cleveland and is scheduled to welcome its first patients in October 2022. The billion-dollar project is the cornerstone of a wider neighborhood revitalization effort led by the system and its partners in the community.
For more information, visit metrohealth.org.