As lawmakers continue to negotiate funding cuts throughout the state, this could mean some major changes are coming to businesses that service disabled children.
Over the past few years the state has decreased funding for the Texas Early Childhood Intervention Program and now parents are concerned this could soon effect the services they receive.
Richard and Shannon Prausa are first time parents of baby Eric who was diagnosed with Down syndrome at birth. Common traits include low muscle tone and developmental delays, which is why they value the therapy services they receive from ECI.
“We work a lot on his core strength because building his core strength then helps build the rest of him,” Shannon said.
The Prausa’s receive weekly home based therapy visits just like thousands of other toddlers who have developmental delays. These services have been proven to increase a child's ability to reach developmental milestones, which later reduces the need for pricey special education services once they reach elementary school.
“ECI provides us things that we may not have been able to learn normally as parents - it's just been an incredible asset for us,” Richard said.
Since 2011, the state has constantly decreased funding for these services and Julie Fielder, Program Director for ECI that serves Bell County said this creates extra strain on the administration.
“I think our greatest concern is what’s going to happen with the legislature and what the funding is going to look like for next year. We do know that the reduction in funds for our program will be about $55,000 dollars per year in Medicaid services alone,” Fielder said.
However, organizers said it’s still unclear how deeply additional funding cuts will impact the program overall. Fielder also said regardless of whether legislatures decide to reduce funds or keep them the same it could still potentially affect the opportunity for growth, and limit services offered to almost 500 children throughout central Texas.
Currently Texas ECI ranks 45 in the nation as far as providing services to children from birth to 3-years-old. Organizers said they want to continue to provide high quality services to families that’s why they're asking for local legislatures to support full funding for the services.
Fielder said if children meet state eligibility the ECI is required to service them because they're an entitlement service but depending on the funding outcome it could stretch services especially thin.
The Prausa's along with many other families who receive services from ECI are hopeful those services will continue.
“As a first time parent and a parent of a special needs child I just can say enough about what E-C-I does for us it would be a travesty if E-C-I services got cut,” Shannon said.
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