The Matthew Reardon Center for Autism faces uncertain future


SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV)- Georgia budget cuts could threaten the existence of critical services in the Savannah community.

The Matthew Reardon Center for Autism (MRCA) serves over 40 counties across Georgia and come next week they could lose all their funding

Director Patti Victor said although MRCA is a private institution, it doesn’t cater to the elite.

She said more than 60 percent of students who attend come from families who live at or below the federal poverty level.

“All of our children came to us out of public schools where they were not succeeding,” said Victor. “Our goal is to prepare them to master the challenges of autism so they can go back into those public schools.”

Victor said over the past decade the center has become less dependent on state money. When she took over in 2006, 75 percent of their funding came from a contract with the Georgia Assembly. Over the years they’ve reduced that dependency to 50 percent.

Last month Governor Brian Kemp told state agencies to cut their spending by 14 percent. This means the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities (DBHDD) could squash MRCA’s funding entirely.

“We fully expect a reduction in the contract and we’ll work with that,” said Victor, “but eliminating the contract was not something we anticipated, we were pretty stunned by that proposal.”

Victor is hoping law makers like state representative (R) Ron Stephens will find another way

“These places with kids and families that need the help we just gotta find a way to do it,” said Stephens. “My plan is to introduce a cigarettes tax that reaches the approval of most of Georgians.”

In the meantime Victor said time is running out to get the message out.

“At this point it’s a real grass roots movement just to ask people to please contact your legislator,” she said, “tell them that we are an important organization that provides important services.”

The MRCA serves over 1,000 families across 44 Georgia counties. They not only educate students, but coach them on both social and communication skills. Victor said what makes them unique is they offer therapy in a classroom rather than a critical setting.

Victor tells WSAV News 3 the center is the only one of it’s kind in Georgia outside of Metro-Atlanta.

The DBHDD will present their budget proposal to the senate on Wednesday. Victor said without the funding the center will likely have to close its doors by the end of the year.

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