"We always say at the age of 21 the (school) bus stops coming," said Nina Wall, who oversees the limited services for adults with autism in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania has more than 8,400 adults with autism, Wall said. Funding's available for 518.
[Travis] Rohrer waits on a slow-moving list while his parents fret.
Marie Mambuca with Pittsburgh-based ABOARD, an autism network sponsoring more than 60 support groups across the state, said she's inundated by calls from parents of adults and adults themselves wanting help.
"Moms and dads are saying, 'We're tired,' " said Mambuca, adding, "It's hard to raise a child with autism for 20-some years, and there's not a whole lot of options when they become adults."
In response to a reporter's inquiry, Lawrence George, director of the $26.5-million agency, said he could not speak about a specific client, but explained that state regulations limit BHDS's mental health services to those adults with specific severe illnesses, and autism is not included.
On Aug. 1, Philhaven discharged Rohrer from the day hospital, adding to his parents' worries that without ongoing help their son's compulsive and impulsive behaviors could lead to new trouble.
George at BHDS sympathizes. "There remains a significant funding gap (for adults with autism), and there are individuals who obviously need more than they're getting," he said.
Rohrer's story is not unique. The more than 8,400 adults with autism in Pennsylvania are the vanguard of the thousands of children in the pipeline who will need services after they finish school.
By 2020, the state projects, adults with autism will exceed 31,000.
Pennsylvania in 2008 began funding autism services for adults under a Medicaid waiver. The new state budget added funding in 2015 for 100 more adults, bringing the total to 518, or only 6 percent of the current estimate. The state projects spending $20.4 million in 2014-15. The average monthly cost per client last year was $3,878.