Here we go again, why not take away from the most vulnerable citizens, children with special needs. Please pray with us that by some miracle these families will find what they need to continue their services.
Families to start feeling brunt of DES cuts
Intervention care for disabled babies not covered for all
Posted: Sunday, January 31, 2010
By Patty Machelor
ARIZONA DAILY STAR read article here
Families receiving services and support for babies with possible developmental disabilities will soon shoulder the cost.
Early-intervention services for at-risk infants and toddlers are federally mandated, and have traditionally been offered without expense to Arizona's parents.
Now, the state is in the process of gathering financial information from 2,509 families and caregivers. Families are required to sign an "acceptance of cost" form by March 1, according to a recent letter from the state's Department of Economic Security.
It is unclear how many will continue to receive free services. Parents and legal guardians with incomes below twice the federal poverty level will not be charged. For a family of four that would be $44,100. Parents with more than one child receiving services will need to pay for only one child.
Brooke Myers, an early interventionist with the nonprofit Desert Survivors, said there's "a lot of panic" among families already struggling to pay medical bills for their at-risk child.
"These parents already have a lot of co-pays from that," she said. "Asking them to now pay for something that's a lifeline is very difficult."
Desert Survivors provides support to parents and services to children. Myers estimates 75 percent of the 21 families she currently helps will have their funding cut. She said two families a colleague worked with have withdrawn already because they can't afford a co-pay.
Arizona's Early Intervention Program falls under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and is implemented, in part, through the state's Division of Developmental Disabilities, said DES spokesman Steve Meissner. Federal guidelines permit states to establish a system of payments, and several states already charge for services on a sliding scale.
"It's a choice that we made reluctantly," Meissner said. "Our resources are shrinking, and we had to absorb a number of reductions because of the state's fiscal crisis."
The state does not reimburse families directly for these services but pays the provider, Meissner said. Providers, mostly therapists, might also bill a family's insurance or, for those who qualify, Arizona's Health Care Cost Containment System's health plan.
Families with an adjusted gross income above 200 percent of the federal poverty level will pay based on their income, family size and service costs. The co-pay will be based on a family's 2008 federal income tax return. Meissner said any changes since then, such as job loss or a new baby, will be factored in.
Maureen Dykinga, a speech - language pathologist, said the change is frightening for providers, who don't want to lose clients or see children go without services they need.
She said some providers will try to find ways to help their clients continue with services, even if the family can't afford it.
"There are going to be families who can't afford a co-pay at all and so there will be children who go without services, without a doubt," Dykinga said.
Monica Attridge, an administrator with the Arizona Association of Providers for People with Disabilities, said the recent letter follows cuts to service providers in May, when state reimbursement dropped to between 82 and 85 percent.
"The cuts have been fairly invisible to the families," she said, "up until now."
Contact reporter Patty Machelor at 806-7754 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
2 days ago