Monday, October 16, 2006

NJ Plans to Shift More Early Autism Expenses to Parents

"For children with developmental delays, early recognition and quick help can make a lifetime of difference. But the state is proposing that some families pay thousands more for that help because the rising number of children in need have overwhelmed the budget.

The federal government mandates that states offer early intervention services for infants and toddlers -- from birth to age 3 -- with disabilities. The services are provided not only to children with autism, but to those with hearing impairments, mental retardation, cerebral palsy and a variety of other disorders that cause their development to fall behind.
The federal government provides some funds, with states and families making up the rest.
The problem is the need and cost have escalated dramatically.
Double the number of children -- 13,788 -- were referred to the New Jersey program in fiscal 2006, which ended June 30, compared with six years earlier. Each child referred is evaluated. As of July, 8,815 children -- including 932 in Bergen and 493 in Passaic -- were receiving services.
At the same time, the cost of services has increased to an average of $100 an hour. This year, the Legislature allocated $78 million, up from $22 million in 2000. But even with the budget increase, officials are anticipating a $13 million shortfall.

To help close the budget gap, lawmakers have directed that the share paid by families be doubled to $6 million a year.

The state Health Department is accepting comments on the proposal through the end of October.
Voice your opinion
The state is accepting written comments on the proposed increases in family contributions for early intervention. They can be sent to:
Terry Harrison, Part C coordinator
New Jersey Early Intervention System
P.O. Box 36450 East State St.
Trenton, NJ 08625-0364
Fax: (609) 292-0296
The comments should include: Name, title, address and telephone number, concerns or support about the proposal, and recommendations."
Full article here.
Additional information here.

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