30,000 Massachusetts children with developmental delays receive early intervention services, but EI therapists say they constantly battle with staff shortages because of a lack of funding. Health care groups say it’s essential for children to receive early intervention services as soon as they’re born if developmental delays or disabilities are detected. By intervening early, advocates say the state saves about $29 million dollars annually in costly efforts to catch kids up with their peers when they begin school.
“We serve children from birth to 36 months and it’s really important to get in their early so we can help children with any speech delays, or if there’s any concerns with significant challenges like autism,” said Thom Westfield program director Bob Gagnon.
For people like Faye Morin, who was born with cerebral palsy, early intervention and continuing physical therapy helped her realize her dream of becoming a college student and working with kids like herself.
“I had a little boy that wasn’t talking at all and I used to play peek-a-boo with him and I used to pop up and say boo and then one day he popped up and said boo to me and he had never spoken to me before this point and that was just a milestone for me like it made me feel amazing to know that I had a hand in making him talk in school,” said Morin, who works at the Small Wonders Nursery School in Dorchester.
But EI therapists say their rates and salaries have been cut for the last 7 years. They’re asking lawmakers to raise the governor’s proposed $26 million dollars in state budget funding to just over $31 million dollars for early intervention services.
“People are not making money competing with health care providers in other places like that, that pay significantly more money,” said Marie Peirent, program director at Thom Springfield.
EI therapists say they’re short on staff and are losing highly skilled workers to other health care employers that pay $10,000 to $40,000 thousand dollars more than what the state pays them.
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