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I’m Cathy White, MD, a pediatrician at Southwest Montana Community Health Center. I write today to express my grave concerns over a proposal by the Department of the Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) to eliminate Part C Early Intervention Services of the Family Education Support Program.

While I recognize the balance Montana’s budget will require some difficult decisions, our state faces an unprecedented challenge that could marginalize thousands of children with Medicaid, who have disabilities and developmental delays. Part C, Early Intervention (EI) provides vital services for developmentally disabled children ages 0-3 years. A crucial point in growth and development and the benefits can last a lifetime. A study of babies born prematurely found that, by the time those children were 18 years old, those who had participated in EI has better academic performance, were less likely to drop out, and had fewer risky behaviors.

Here in Montana, over two-thirds of children enrolled in these programs avoid matriculation in special education classrooms, in which result not only in significant benefits to families but also relieves the physical and fiscal strain on the public-school system and the state.

In addition to Part C, DPHHS has also proposed eliminating the Family Education Support (FES) program for disabled children ages 3 to 21 years. FES services helps families of children with special needs by enhancing the knowledge and the skills of children of families to achieve optimal success in life. As is evident from the pervasive nature of the DPHHS proposal, the future for all Montana’s children with developmental disabilities would be severely threatened by the elimination of these programs.

Furthermore, failure to preserve Part C would make Montana the only state in the union not to provide these services. While cutting Pact C, Early Intervention may help reduce the budget deficit in the short term, it will end up costing Montanans more in the long term. Therefore, I strongly implore Governor Bullock and also Jon Sesso and Edie McClafferty, of the Finance Committee, to preserve both Part C Early Intervention Services and the Family Education Support Program, and use their creativity to come up with other funding for our budget shortfall.

I encourage all Butte families to contact their Senators and Representatives regarding these cuts.

- Concerned Citizen Cathy White, MD FAAP


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