Protecting Early Intervention Services

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					                        Protecting Early Intervention Services

      By Senator Katherine Clark and Dr. Claire McCarthy of Children’s Hospital

 When 200 parents pushing children in strollers descend on the state house, it is time to
listen. They came to fight for the Early Intervention (EI) program because they know EI
may be the only chance to change the course of the lives of thousands of children in

Early Intervention (EI) is a program that helps children from birth to three years who are
disabled or have developmental problems. It sends therapists into homes and child
care programs to work with these children and their families. It helps the children at a
crucial developmental moment, those early years when neurologic connections are still
being made, when so much is still possible.

Cuts have been made to the program already; over the past several years, access to EI
services has been limited bit by bit. But the proposed cut of $8 million – 27% reduction
in budget - goes much further. Children with medical problems or severe disabilities
would be moved to federal funding and guaranteed services. The funding for children
with milder disabilities would come from a combination of state funding and health
insurance. And since the state funding is limited, and not all insurance covers EI,
approximately 6,000 of these children would end up on waiting lists—or not get services
at all.

This just doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t make financial sense. The cost of special
education services in the public schools is nearly five times the cost of EI services.
These are children with mild delays, children whose need for special education could
quite possibly be eliminated if they get EI services. The cost to the state will ultimately
be much higher. By spending money now, the state saves a lot of money later.

It doesn’t make medical sense for the very same reason. The children most affected by
this cut are the ones who could most benefit from EI. The ones who will be funded
through federal dollars need support, of course, but they are likely going to need
support for years, if not for their entire lives. The children with milder delays are the
ones whose prognosis could be fundamentally changed by getting help early. Take
children with autism, for example. In those early years, many (actually, most) haven’t
been diagnosed yet, and have subtle, mild problems; they could end up being denied
services. There is substantial medical evidence to show that intervening early in autism
makes a tremendous difference. By saying no to them, we change their future—for the

 This budget cut doesn’t make sense for working families. This is a cut that differentially
affects working-class and middle-class families, the ones who aren’t poor enough to
qualify for Medicaid, yet don’t have access to the kind of insurance that will cover EI.
These are the families that are working hard to make ends meet, and aren’t going to
have the money to pay for services themselves. These are the families that are working
hard for a better future for their children—and without EI, that future may not be better at

 Early Intervention is a common sense program for families and the state - both
financially and medically. While there will be painful cost cutting in this budget, we
need to think about future costs and not do things that clearly increase them. Early
Intervention not only reduces costs, but it builds a future for children. And that makes all
the sense in the world.

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