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Growing Scarcity of Developmental Services for Young Children

Op/Ed By Pete Nabozny, Director of Policy at The Children’s Agenda –


naboznyWhen a family or pediatrician thinks a child may have a developmental delay of some sort, they seek therapies such as physical, occupational, speech, or counseling.

But, chronic under-funding of these services is pushing providers in Rochester out of the work, causing a growing problem where many children now wait many months before they might receive help.

For young children with a delay, not to mention their worried parents, waiting can be a major setback, and can be responsible for minor problems growing into major health or learning problems in later childhood and as adults.

In the first 6 months of 2017, 20 percent of children in Monroe County, birth to three years old, spent time on waiting lists for Early Intervention Services.

Children in the City of Rochester, Gates, and Greece, particularly those in zip codes with many children of color, were most likely to be forced to wait for these critical services.

The Children’s Agenda is very concerned about this growing shortage of providers, and has recently released a report examining this growing problem.

We found that low reimbursement rates, set by New York state, are a significant cause of this delay.

These low rates translate to lower worker wages. Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists, and Speech Therapists who work with young children are, on average, paid nearly 25 percent less than their peers who work with school-age children, adults, and seniors.

As a result, there are fewer professionals working with young children, and a growing number of children who are forced to wait to receive these critical and legally-mandated services.

The Children’s Agenda, and others in the community, are calling on New York state to raise reimbursement rates for these developmental services by 21 percent to 41 percent, depending on the service.

We also urge the state to ensure there is funding equity between Early Intervention, Pre-School Special Education, and School-Age Special Education, so all children who need developmental and special educational services are able to receive them.

Finally, we recommend that the state develop a method or formula that allows them to establish a reimbursement rate that ensures that all children get the critical services they need.

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