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PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360
|Clifton R. Lacy, M.D. |
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TRENTON -- After considering extensive input from families and advocacy groups, the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) today released its family cost-share plan making services for young children with special needs affordable and accessible through the Early Intervention System.
The plan must be approved by the federal Office of Special Education Programs. If and when approved, DHSS will implement the changes March 1, 2004 for all new families entering the system. The new cost-share plan will be phased in from March through May for families currently in the program.
“The Early Intervention System is very important to families of children with developmental disabilities,’’ said Health and Senior Services Commissioner Clifton R. Lacy, M.D. “We must make sure the program remains financially viable and available to help families. DHSS has taken the necessary steps to keep this important program affordable and accessible to all New Jersey families who need these vital services.”
Each year, the Early Intervention System serves about 14,000 children from birth to age three with developmental delays or disabilities. This includes children with autism, Down's syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, vision impairments, and general developmental delays such as those that may be experienced by premature infants. Eligible children and families receive such services as developmental intervention; speech, occupational or physical therapy for children; and emotional support and educational services for parents.
Currently, all families enrolled in the system receive up to two hours of services a week at no cost to the family, as well as service coordination, developmental evaluation and assessment and development of a plan of care for their developmentally disabled children. Beyond the first two hours, families with an income above 350 percent of the federal poverty level (above $64,500 for a family of four) are charged a cost-share for services.
Enrollment in the Early Intervention System has grown rapidly in recent years, averaging 15 percent growth annually. Over the past eight years, the state appropriation to the program has increased 189 percent from $14.9 million to $43 million. Children have also required more intensive services, leading to higher program costs. In some cases, where appropriate, 20 hours or more of services are provided weekly.
To maintain the valuable services of the Early Intervention System, DHSS considered ways to generate revenue that would help sustain the continued growth of the program.
Under the plan announced today, all families with incomes below 350 percent of the federal poverty level will receive services without charge. Families at 350 percent or above will pay a cost-share based on a sliding fee scale. For example, a family of four at 350 percent of the poverty level ($64,500 a year) would pay $10 a month.
Families at 350 percent of the poverty level or above will pay a cost-share beginning with the first hour of service.
The Early Intervention System state appropriation was increased by $1.5 million this fiscal year in order to help keep pace with the demand for services. DHSS will continue to explore additional and alternate resources to help support the Early Intervention System including insurance and waiver programs.
Information on the state’s Early Intervention System can be found on the web at http://www.state.nj.us/health/fhs/eiphome.htm .
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Department of Health
P. O. Box 360, Trenton, NJ 08625-0360