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America's 'Radical Elders' continue their work for fairness, justice; SCOTUS upholds law disarming domestic abusers; Workplace adoption benefits help families, communities; Report examines barriers to successful post-prison re-entry in NC.

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A congresswoman celebrates Biden protections for mixed status families, Louisiana's Ten Commandments law faces an inevitable legal challenge, and a senator moves to repeal the strict 19th century anti-obscenity and anti-abortion Comstock Act.

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Rural educators say they need support to teach kids social issues, rural businesses can suffer when dollar stores come to town, prairie states like South Dakota are getting help to protect grasslands and a Minnesota town claims the oldest rural Pride Festival.

Budget Cuts Keep Texas Kids with Disabilities from Getting Therapy

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Thursday, October 19, 2017   

TYLER, Texas – Funding cuts are forcing thousands of Texas children with disabilities and developmental delays to lose access to critical therapy.

The Texas Legislature first cut funding several years ago to the state's Early Childhood Intervention program, also called ECI, forcing a significant number of contractors providing services for children to drop out of the program.

Stephanie Rubin, CEO of Texans Care for Children, says a recent study by her group found those cuts are causing major hardships for thousands of Texas families that have children with special needs.

"Fewer kids are being served by these early intervention programs that help babies and toddlers with disabilities get on track,” Rubin points out. “The Legislature is interested in helping these kids out but has not yet supported the program sufficiently with new funding."

Rubin says ECI provides speech, physical and occupational therapy to prepare children with disabilities to start school.

She says lawmakers cut state money for the program in 2011, and slashed Medicaid reimbursements in 2015.

At the time, lawmakers said the cuts were necessary to balance the state budget, but they failed to keep a promise to restore the funds during this year's legislative session.

Rubin says the study also found that while, overall, fewer children are participating in the program, the funding cuts have hit some groups harder than others.

"Over the last five to six years in particular, we've seen a tremendous drop in the number of kids who are enrolled in the ECI program, with a disproportionate impact on black and Hispanic families,” she states. “And this is at a time when the population of young kids is going up in our state."

Rubin says as providers are forced to drop out of the program, families – particularly those in rural areas – are often traveling great distances to find providers.

"These programs cover many counties and big distances,” she explains. “If a family does not have access to an ECI program, they may have to drive hundreds of miles to find a therapist."

Rubin says her group and others plan to return to the 2019 legislative session to lobby for getting ECI funding fully restored.




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