Teen's death shows gap in autism care, say advocates

Jarrett Bortscher was waiting transition from child system to adult care, a process that families say can take up to two years.

Advocates for those with autism say the death of an Edmonton teen this week reveals a serious gap in the province’s mental health system.

Jarrett Bortscher, 18, was found dead Wednesday after going missing from his family’s home Sunday.

"This kid was an amazing kid.  He was a huge inspiration to me," said Matthew Wood, a DJ who holds a weekly show on Churchill Square. He says Bortscher was a regular.

"He didn’t talk that much, but when he danced, it showed. His passion showed through his dance. His strength."

Brotscher had Asperger's Syndrome and catatonia.

He had been staying at the Glenrose Hospital, but was released in June after getting too old for the child system.

His family said he was awaiting transfer to the adult program, which can take as long as two years.

Deborah Barrett said she found the transition terrifying when her autistic son Anthony, who is now 24, moved to the adult system.

"So there are a lot of things that end. Mental health services are extremely minimal," she said.

While the transition is being made, she said most of the pressure falls on the family to care for someone with autism.

Barrett and others are petitioning the provincial government to provide more funding for adult autism services in an effort to make the wait shorter.

A special tribute dance for Bortscher is being held on Churchill Square Thursday.