March 7, 2023
By: Jenny Veloz, Julie Kronick, & Marija Drobnjak
With the New York State budget season under way, CCC and our state partners are drawing attention to the serious challenges families are facing in accessing Early Intervention (EI) services. The Early Intervention program provides services for children under three years of age who have a developmental delay or disability. These services are critical in helping children grow, play, talk and walk like their peers. However, in recent years, children and families across New York State have seen an increase in significant delays for accessing EI services. These delays are driven largely by provider shortages, and in particular the lack of access to in-person services.
Recently, CCC analyzed data on EI services in New York City as part of the Kids Can’t Wait Coalition that show some significant issues. Service delays are having a disproportionate impact on NYC’s children of color. Less than 50% of Black and Latinx children are receiving their EI services on time (within the legally mandated 30 days). This is compared to 60% of their White peers. Children of color are also experiencing longer wait times to receive services. In 2021, average wait times increased for Black (24.9 days) and Latinx (24.2) children, compared to the previous year of 17.7 and 17.2 days, respectively. Click here to view the EI Fact sheet from CCC. Our data was covered in a Politico Pro article last month, too, giving additional context to the analysis and recommendations.
This problem is not exclusive to just New York City. Across the state, children continue to experience delays in service. On average, 20% of services at the state level are being delayed because of the lack of in-person providers. According to the NYS Comptroller’s report, of the nearly 95,000 children with approved Individualized Family Services Plan (IFSP), about 27,000 (28%) did not receive services within 30 days. This data comes from the New York State Comptroller’s Report 2023. You can read more about the Comptroller’s data in this article from The City. This data comes from the New York State Comptroller’s Report 2023. You can read more about the Comptroller’s data in this article from The City.
Even the slightest delay in service can have a significant impact on a child’s developmental trajectory. During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth allowed children to continue getting EI services, helping prevent gaps and delays. However, because these services are so critical and time sensitive for child development, the impact of in-person sessions can make a significant difference for many families. Now that services can return to in-person, the decision between this option versus telehealth should be based on the most effective method of service, the needs of the child, and parent preference — not provider availability. However, despite in-person services being back online, telehealth has become the default option for providing EI services. So, one way to handle provider shortages and increase availability is to incentivize providers to continue working in the EI field. As such, the Kids Can’t Wait Coalition supports an 11% rate increase for EI providers, especially since reimbursement rates for providers are lower now than they were 20 years ago.
On Tuesday, February 7, CCC traveled to Albany with other advocacy organizations, parents, providers and medical professionals as part of the Kids Can’t Wait Campaign. While there, we met with legislators to garner support for the 11% rate increase for EI providers and the need for rate enhancements for in-person services. You can read more on the Coalition’s recommendations to bolster this critical system in CCC’s factsheet. Read CCC’s data and policy recommendations here.