Letter to the Editor from The Children’s Agenda:
Monroe County plans to establish a waiting list for all new referrals to Early Intervention for evaluation on December 3rd, 2018. Children with conditions like Down syndrome, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Cerebral Palsy, and other significant specials needs will be placed on wait lists for weeks and months waiting to be evaluated for services they are legally entitled to receive. This will place Monroe County in violation of state and federal law, which require Service Coordinators to be assigned promptly and a child’s service plan to be developed within 45 days of referral.
Service Coordinators are the case managers of the Early Intervention system. They help families navigate a confusing system and ensure their needs are met. Children cannot receive a comprehensive evaluation and begin receiving Early Intervention services without a Service Coordinator.
The establishment of a waiting list is due to a dire shortage of Service Coordinators in our area, which was caused by New York State repeatedly cutting reimbursement rates for that service over the past 10 years. Over just the past month, two of the few remaining community-based agencies providing Service Coordination to children and families in Monroe County closed their programs after sustaining years of financial losses providing the service.
Responsibility for this crisis lies with New York State, but Monroe County can and should take immediate steps to limit the consequences to children and families in the County. The County needs to immediately hire at least 6 new Service Coordinators give the Department of Public Health the staffing it needs to avoid establishing this waiting list.
In addition, Monroe County should join with The Children’s Agenda, ROC The Future, and advocates from across the state to urge the Governor and the Legislature to make significant investments in the Early Intervention and Preschool Special Education systems in the 2019-20 State Budget. Doing so will ensure children receive the services they need to get off to the best possible start in life.
Finally, our legislators and the County Executive need to hear from the community about the importance of this issue. You can send a message to your elected officials by visiting www.thechildrensagenda.org. We also need people to sign up to speak at the County Legislature’s Ways and Means Committee Meeting on December 6th at 5:30 pm and the full Legislature meeting on December 11th at 6:00 pm. Call (585)753-1950 to sign up to speak at these hearings.