We’ve been pleased to see so many state legislators from both parties speak out against proposed reimbursement rate cuts to life-changing therapy for children with disabilities – cuts a district court judge recently put on hold and state health officials have pledged to scale back.
Most of the attention has focused on home health care providers and the important work they do. But concerned legislators should also know the cuts hit the state’s Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) program, which has faced multiple state cuts despite its proven effectiveness.
What is ECI? ECI serves children under age three with disabilities and developmental delays, like Caleb, Kate, and Madalynn. Families and professionals work as a team to address the unique needs of each child, providing services in the home or wherever the child is most comfortable. ECI helps children reach their developmental goals, whether that means simply learning to swallow their food, walk, or communicate basic phrases to their parents, or preparing to succeed in their neighborhood school.
ECI has an impressive track record. It’s so effective because it serves children during the critical developmental stage before age three, coordinates multiple services, and teaches parents skills and strategies to help their children. As a result, over 75% of participating Texas children showed gains in their knowledge, skills, and social relationships.
Because it’s so effective and focuses on the early years, ECI is a money-saver. Nearly half of children in the program or in similar programs in other states who were at risk of needing costly special education services did not need special education when they arrived in kindergarten.
Yet the Legislature has cut ECI multiple times, endangering services for children in need. Legislators cut funding in 2011, resulting in tighter eligibility requirements and a focus on children with more severe – and expensive – needs. The Legislature underfunded ECI again in 2015, in addition to passing the controversial reimbursement rate cuts.
We’re glad to see so many legislators recognize the importance of protecting services for Texas children with disabilities. During the next legislative session, they should take another step towards safeguarding those services and ensure ECI has the funding it needs to serve all kids who need services.