Tuesday night, families of young children with special needs, their teachers, and children’s advocates took to the podium to voice their concerns to the Monroe County Legislature. They say the county must act now to address a crisis in care.
Instead of hiring more workers, the county is putting hundreds of families on a wait list beginning December 1.
Michelle Schilling found out her daughter Ella had a rare genetic syndrome shortly after birth.
Doctors told her that Ella would never walk or talk. Schilling says early intervention services saved her and, at 8-years-old, Ella is walking.
But hundreds of other children are not getting the services they are entitled to under the law. As a result of a lack of state funding, agencies that coordinate care are pulling out.
Catholic Family Center stopped services last month. Skip of New York announced that they would no longer be providing services at the end of the year, leaving only eight local agencies in the county.
Monroe County doesn’t have enough staff to absorb the caseloads. It says it has no choice but to put more families on a wait list. County officials say they will head to Albany to advocate.
“I will be presenting our concerns, our community’s concerns, and the concerns of the state and asking forcefully that the State of New York help fix the system they broke,” said Monroe County Executive, Cheryl Dinolfo. “They have neglected it for years.”
Under the law, the county has 45 days to set up services for each child on the wait list.
“The service coordinators of the county already have over 100 children each on their caseload and I cannot imagine how many more children they’re going to have to try to service with services they just don’t have,” said Tracey Taylor, a Pediatric Occupational Therapist at Step By Step Developmental Services in Henrietta.
This is not just a problem in Monroe County. According to The Children’s Agenda, in 2014, New York State scored 98 percent when it comes to meeting the legal time frames for early intervention services. Four years later, that score has dropped to 68 percent.