09/10/2014 09:06 EDT | Updated 11/10/2014 05:59 EST

West Island rehabilitation centre’s budget slashed by $1.2M

A rehabilitation centre for people with intellectual disabilities on Montreal's West Island is feeling the effects of government budget cuts.

The West Montreal Readaptation Centre — which uses the French acronym CROM — is cutting services, and asking parents and volunteers to pick up the slack.

CROM President Gary Whittaker says the government has slashed more than $5 million from the organization’s budget over the past five years.  

“When [the health] minister [​Gaétan] Barrette says the cuts won’t affect services, they will affect services,” Whittaker said.

CROM, which has about 300 staff, helps about 2,000 children and young adults with mental disabilities — most have autism.

For this fiscal year, the centre’s budget has been cut by $1.2 million.

On Tuesday evening, Whittaker met with dozens of parents at the centre in Beaconsfield to explain what the cuts will mean.

“We’ve had to eliminate some management positions. Our objective is not to eliminate front-line people,” Whittaker said, adding that the centre will also be cutting down on communications, travel and mailing.

He’s calling on the community to volunteer, saying that community groups and parents will have to pitch in even more to help with basic services.

“Otherwise we’re into the desperate step of cutting programs, which we just don’t want to do.”

Whittaker said more than 300 autistic children are on a waiting list for an intensive therapy program aimed at children under the age of six.

Courtney Lai-Hing, a member of CROM’s parents committee, has an adult son with autism and said that cutting any program would be devastating.

“You need the social interaction. You need some sort of quality care. The objective is to help the children and the adults reach their maximum potential,” she said, adding that many parents with autistic children are already struggling with the workload.