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Early Childhood Intervention eligibility rules have changed

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Starting September 1st 2011, it will be harder to meet eligibility requirements for some programs that provide therapy and support services for children with disabilities in Austin and throughout the state of Texas.

The news coverage of the budget crisis has now been enveloped into Texas Governor Rick Perry's Presidential nomination campaign. For the state and local departments and programs that fought before committees, the House floor, and through lobbying efforts to keep their programs afloat and funded, accommodating the budget cuts from the 82nd Texas Legislative Session is a top priority. September 1st finds many programs in the midst of change, ready or not.

Early Childhood Intervention, "a statewide program for families with children, birth to three, with disabilities and developmental delays", is one program that will be making staffing and caseload adjustments in the coming weeks. (Quote: Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services Division for Early Childhood Intervention)

Budget cuts have led to changes in eligibility criteria for this program.

MESSAGE FROM COMMISSIONER DEBRA WANSER

ABOUT CHANGES IN EARLY CHILDHOOD INTERVENTION ELIGIBILITY

Dear Stakeholders,

I would like to thank the parents, physicians, advocates and providers who submitted written comments on our rules. Your concern for children with developmental delays and your support for ECI are very evident and much appreciated.

You may know that the DARS funding appropriation for Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) services for fiscal years 2012 and 2013 was about 14 percent less than funding levels for the program in 2011. As a result, DARS will narrow eligibility criteria for the ECI program.

The positive news is that we will not have to narrow as much as we originally thought when we first proposed rules in May 2011. We believe that we will continue to be able to serve those children and families most in need of our services. We are funded to serve, on average, almost 28,000 children and their families per month.

Effective September 1, 2011, a child will be eligible for ECI services if he or she:

  • Has a medically diagnosed condition that has a high probability of resulting in developmental delay. This has not changed.
  • Has an auditory or visual impairment as determined by school district personnel using Texas Education Agency criteria. This has not changed.
  • Has a delay of at least 25% in one or more areas of development (motor, communication, cognition, socialemotional or self-help). For example, a child who is 16 months of age would have to have a delay of four months or more to be eligible. This is slightly more delay than would have been required in the past (in this example, three months).

The new eligibility criteria will apply to children who enroll in the program on September 1, 2011 or after. Families currently enrolled will continue to receive services and have their eligibility re-determined at least annually, as required by federal regulations. Children’s continuing eligibility is based on having a medically diagnosed condition, auditory/visual impairment or evidence of a developmental delay.

DARS ECI will continue to identify and use all available funding sources while adhering to federal and state regulations. In addition, we have implemented several changes to both maintain and enhance the quality of our services. Our goal is to safeguard ECI's long term viability while ensuring alignment with the strengths and priorities of the program. Thank you again for your continued support and interest.

Sincerely,

Debra Wanser

Commissioner

For children who qualify, ECI provides essential support services for children with special needs at no cost (or through a family cost share program for those who can afford to pay).

Services provided by Childhood Early Intervention Programs can include:

  • Assistive Technology: Services & Devices
  • Audiology
  • Developmental Services
  • Early Identification, Screening & Assessment
  • Family Counseling
  • Family Education
  • Medical Services (diagnostic or evaluation services used to determine eligibility)
  • Nursing Services
  • Nutrition Services
  • Occupational Therapy
  • Physical Therapy
  • Psychological Services
  • Service Coordination
  • Social Work Services
  • Speech-Language Therapy
  • Vision Services

The Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services ECI Program is implemented by regional agencies. In Austin, TX ECI services are provided by:

Easter Seals Central Texas Phone: (512) 615-6852
Any Baby Can Phone: (512) 334-4417
Infant Parent Program, Austin Travis County Integral Care Phone: (512) 472-3142

more photo credit: Nutdanai Apikhomboonwaroot

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