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CDC: State funding cuts impact children with disabilities

CDC: State funding cuts impact children with disabilities

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Over the summer Gov. Gordon was clear about the declining state of Wyoming’s economy hit again by extensive losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He warned that agencies would receive a 10% cut now and a 10 percent cut in the fall, which the Child Development Centers (CDC) were preparing for. However, the CDC’s infant disabilities program received a 22 percent cut right out of the gate. Once again, after at least six consecutive years of reduced financial support, CDCs prepared for the ten percent by fundraising, cutting expenses further, furloughing or not renewing contracts for professional staff. But 22 percent was more than a surprise, it was a direct hit to hundreds of Wyoming families who depend on professional help for the more than 1200 children birth to three years of age, with severe disabilities including Down Syndrome, Apert Syndrome, born addicted to drugs and in foster care, orthopedic, deaf and blind, and behavioral health issues, autism and many others. It’s difficult to believe the folks who represent us in state government don’t see the value of these services. We know some of them do. We are asking that they listen as they make difficult decisions, many with unintended consequences.

Wyoming’s fourteen regional CDCs have been serving children and families with and without disabilities, birth to five years old, for the past 50 years. Science has proven that ninety percent of a child’s brain is developed before the age of five and for that reason these programs are essential. While this letter to the editor will address Part C the infant and toddler program, the three to five-year-old early intervention education program is equally important for a seamless transition for children with delays and disabilities preparing to enter kindergarten ready to learn.

We have run the numbers and these children will still need therapy and services, however much of the cost will be transferred to Medicaid at twice the money if Part C is eliminated. We think there may be options that better define Wyoming family values.

If you look closely at the spread sheet there are programs in the Wyoming Dept. of Health that weren’t cut at all, not even the promised 10 percent. We were asked for our ideas. No further cuts to CDCs please. The recent renovation of the state hospital and renewal of the Life Resource Center are investments that the legislature has committed to, so are hands off, we have been advised. Study the data and the science. There is no better investment in the future of any state than their children and especially the smallest and most vulnerable voices. It’s not hard to imagine.

The annual rate of return for the individual and the public over the lifetime of an at-risk preschooler who had received early developmental services was 16 percent, compared to an average annual stock market return of 6.3 percent, measured from 1871 to 1998.

Art Rolnick, Senior Vice President and Director of Research for the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis wrote, “The literature is clear: Dollars invested in early childhood development yield extraordinary public (and private) returns.” Robert G. Lynch, associate professor and chairman of the Department of Economics at Washington College concluded “If all at-risk children received early childhood services starting in 2005, the economic benefits would offset 1/5 of the projected social security deficit between 2030 and 2050.

Nobel Prize winning economist James Heckman of the University of Chicago stated, “We cannot afford to postpone investing in children until they become adults, nor can we wait until they reach school age – a time when it may be too late to intervene. Learning is a dynamic process and is most effective when it begins at a young age … Interventions at an early age…have proven to be highly effective.”

Child Development Services of Wyoming is a nonprofit association dedicated to serving Wyoming’s most vulnerable children with disabilities and delays birth through five years old. For more information contact your regional CDC or contact Sue Sharp, Executive Director, CDS of WY sue@mediationwest.com

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