Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) is one of the state’s main programs for influencing children’s trajectory during the developmentally critical years of early childhood and ensuring that more students start kindergarten ready to succeed. The proposed Medicaid rate cuts for children’s therapies would adversely affect the community organizations that provide ECI services, which are distinct from the home health agencies at the center of the rate controversy. After past budget cuts to ECI, legislators should ensure full funding and support is provided to the program and the children with disabilities and delays who rely on it.
ECI is the state program to help children from birth to age three with disabilities and developmental delays. A range of comprehensive services is provided by community organizations such as Easter Seals, Any Baby Can, and the Brighton Center, to name just a few examples. These groups ensure that services are coordinated to meet the unique needs of each child and that parents have the guidance and support necessary to continue to meet their children’s needs. Services are tailored to meet each child’s developmental goals. For example, ECI may provide speech therapy to children who need help learning to speak, or physical therapy to children who need help learning to walk. Services are provided in the home or wherever the child is most comfortable.
As federally required, every child meeting the state’s eligibility requirements is entitled to program access, regardless of family income. However, the financing mechanisms of ECI are complex and administratively challenging. Depending on a family’s income, ECI services may be financed through a combination of Medicaid, a family "cost share,” private insurance, and state general revenue funds in the form of contracts administered by the Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS). ECI is partially funded through Part C Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) funding, which supports similar state programs throughout the country.