ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Nearly 100 organizations across New York are calling for a boost in funding for early intervention providers due to a backlog of requests for services for the very youngest in our state to access care.

“Certainly this is not going to be the sexiest topic that we take up in the new legislative year but it may be the one that has the most critically important impact on the lives and the future of children in New York,” says Assemblyman Josh Jensen (R-134).

94 organizations have signed a letter urging Governor Hochul to boost the budget for early intervention providers. These services address a child’s phsycial, occupational, or speech therapy, and can also include psychological programs for the child and family. Speakers addressed the need across the state, saying the most recent data in 2020 shows 1/3 of infants and toddlers in New York are waiting over 30 days to see a provider.

News 8 has not immediately heard back from the Governor’s office for a statement on this matter.

“So why are we so concerned about this? The reason why these timelines are so important is because 85% of brain development happens before age 3. This is a time when synapses are forming rapidly and connections are made that will change the course of a child’s life, particularly a child who has a developmental delay or disability,” says Brigit Hurley, Chief Program Officer, The Children’s Agenda

The letter requests the governor to include an 11% increase in early intervention reimbursement rates for next year’s budget, noting little changes in this sector in decades.

“Early Intervention therapists have received minimal raises over the past 20 years. In fact, their payment rates now are lower than they were in the 1990’s,” Hurley adds.

“Providers have left for a multitude of reasons. Sometimes it is all the unpaid time that we spend on our paperwork and our planning. We have limited benefits, limited healthcare packages, no reimbursement for gas or wear-and-tear on our cars and the long hours that surpass a 9-5 job,” says Amanda Wilbert with Step by Step Pediatric Therapy Services.

Hurley added during Wednesday new conference in Rochester, the most recent data in 2020 shows about 200 infants and toddlers in Monroe County alone, had waited more than 30 days for care, with leaders saying that number — in a snapshot last year — was already closer to 350 children.

The Children’s Agenda will be holding a virtual teach-in on Monday, December 12 at 7 p.m. which can be viewed here.