Monday, July 6, 2009

Pennywise, pound foolish

Our newsletter this month (go to to view or subscribe) focused on the importance of nutrition in early intervention. Reminding that early intervention services such as occupational therapy, speech therapy, child development services and physical therapy just will not be as effective if a child is malnourished.

We can mention the importance of nutrition in a child's development and the need to provide nutrition intervention, but the reality is that these services are becoming very scarce in light of the financial situation in the state of California. We all know that when the budget passes in California this fiscal year, ALL health and related services will be cut. It is hard to argue one health need over the other. Mental health, HIV, immunizations, home health care, the list goes on and on, are all vitally important and so is early intervention. Unfortunately, early intervention often is cut first and cut hard. We all know the benefits of early intervention and now is the time to publicize these. The problem is, the recipients of early intervention are too young, the parents too tired and the interventionists are too busy providing services to research and publish.

We all need to realize the extreme risks to our state if early intervention services are cut too deeply. Already there has been a 3% cut in reimbursement to interventionists. In addition to the dollar cut, treating hours are being reduced as well. This does not mean that interventionists just get paid less, many agencies that specialize in working in early intervention have closed. Many professionals can no longer afford to practice in this area. That leaves fewer experienced professionals in this field and reduces access to services. Often there are other programs that can pick up the slack, such as MediCal, but these services are being cut back as well. Private insurance may fund some intervention but usually the services are limited and children need to use insurance specific providers. An occupational therapist or dietitian working with adults may not have the specialized skills for working with a young child, especially one at developmental risk.

Why should we worry? What are the risks? The risk to the child and family are great. Early intervention can reduce or even PREVENT some disability. Without it, the child, family and our state will be paying the cost of greater and longer lasting disability. What does that mean? Special education perhaps instead of a regular classroom. Lifelong social services instead of independence. Living to a child's potential, or not.

Please consider what is at risk. Services will be cut therefore it is important to make the most of what you receive. Be a responsible and receptive user of early intervention services. Partner with your therapists to make the most from your services. Let your physicians, service coordinators, friends and legislators know how it has helped your child and your family. Legislator information can be found at


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