When we say that the budget was balanced on the backs of children and the poor, this is the sort of thing we’re talking about.
Lawmakers last year slashed funding for the statewide [Early Childhood Intervention] program by 14 percent. The reductions come at a time when demand for services is increasing and children’s needs are growing more complex.
Many of the 56 agencies that contract with the state to provide early services are feeling the effects of the changes, which became effective Sept. 1.
The number of clients in MHMR’s program, for example, has dropped from 1,481 in September 2011 to 1,280 in January. At Easter Seals of Greater Houston, enrollment went from 626 in November 2010 to 465 last November.
“It’s a frustrating time,” said Dena Day, ECI program director at Easter Seals. “It’s frustrating when they (staff) go to homes and see babies they know need services and won’t get them.”
ECI targets children ages 6 weeks to 3 years who show signs of developmental delays or have a medical diagnosis, such as autism or Down syndrome. The children receive services in their home, and parents are taught skills to assist with their child’s development.
This is some of the best money we can spend. It has a lifelong effect, and the investment is paid back many times over. Children who get this kind of help are more likely to stay in school – there’s another factor in the graduation rate for you – and thus have better outcomes in life. The jails are full of people with learning disabilities and other problems that could have been addressed when they were little but weren’t. Doing less now to help children who need it will cost us a lot more later. And everyone who voted for that in the Lege – that is to say, every Republican in the Lege – will own that.