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The Illinois EI Program and Children Ages 0-3 Are Subject to Lost Services Due to Nonpayment

Monday, March 13, 2017   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Matthew Nicholas
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The Illinois Early Intervention Program and Children Ages 0-3 Are Subject to Lost Services Due to Nonpayment From the Comptroller’s Office

Under the purview of previous Illinois State Comptroller Leslie Munger, in late 2015 it was deemed that EI services fell under several active consent decrees and court orders.  Prompt payment to both agencies and providers for services rendered needed to be enacted, and the State collapsed the delays from approximately four months to one.   

With the new fiscal year, beginning in July 2016, Leslie Munger fell back into old habits and began delaying payments once again. This has continued under current Comptroller Susana Mendoza with payment delays reaching beyond 100 days.  While stating that providers would be paid first upon taking office, EI has now slipped to over three months of backlogged payments, and providers are beginning to leave the system due to the hardships being placed upon them by the state.  Without a deep and qualified pool of providers, thousands of children are at risk of losing vital services that are empirically proven to better their long term outcomes.

Early Intervention Defined:
Early Intervention is defined as Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.  Known as Early Intervention/EI, it was created in 1986 to enhance the development of infants and toddlers with disabilities, minimize potential developmental delay, and reduce educational costs to our society by minimizing the need for special education services as children with disabilities reach school age. The primary goal of EI is to support families in promoting their child's optimal development and to facilitate the child's participation in family and community activities. Eligible children and their families are entitled to receive a broad range of developmental, social-emotional, and health services designed to maximize their development, including speech and language, occupational, and physical therapies, health services, and social work services. 

Currently in Illinois, children are eligible for EI if they have a 30% delay, if they have a medical diagnosis of a medical or mental condition that typically results in delay or if they are at a substantial risk of delay based on defined risk factors. EI services benefit children all across the state regardless of socio-economic status. Illinois provides EI services to well over 20,000 infants and toddlers and their families annually—about 3.5% of all birth to three year olds. Research indicates that as many as 13% of birth to 3 year olds have delays that make them eligible for EI. 

Current Threat to Early Intervention:
Under the purview of previous Illinois State Comptroller Leslie Munger, in late 2015 it was deemed that EI services fell under several active consent decrees and court orders.  Prompt payment to both agencies and providers for services rendered needed to be enacted, and the State collapsed the delays from approximately four months to one.   

With the new fiscal year, beginning in July 2016, Leslie Munger fell back into old habits and began delaying payments once again. This has continued under current Comptroller Susana Mendoza with payment delays reaching beyond 100 days.  While stating that providers would be paid first upon taking office, EI has now slipped to over three months of backlogged payments, and providers are beginning to leave the system due to the hardships being placed upon them by the state.  Without a deep and qualified pool of providers, thousands of children are at risk of losing vital services that are empirically proven to better their long term outcomes. 

We Know Early Intervention Works:
Research has shown that children with mild and moderate delays (30%-40% delay) make the most significant gains in EI. Nationwide, nearly 70% of children in EI have greater than expected growth, in that they acquire skills at a faster rate even after they leave the program. Nearly half of the children leave EI functioning at age level, and do not need special education at kindergarten age, helping these children truly achieve skills to participate in life alongside their age related peers and saving taxpayers thousands of dollars in the long run. 

Early Intervention is Amazingly Cost Effective:
At minimum, every dollar spent on early intervention saves at least $7 in future costs.  Some studies, such as Heckert’s 2007 landmark study at the University of Chicago, found that early childhood programming can save up to $17 in later education, health and economic support costs.  In addition, studies show that EI services are 2½ times less costly than special education services in preschool and elementary years.  There is simply no better program than Early Intervention when it comes to the age old adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. 

Why the Comptroller’s Inability to Appropriately Fund EI will Actually Cost More Money, Undermine the Early Childhood system, and Harm Children and Families:
Those that would no longer receive services in EI are children and families who have the most to lose.  With providers leaving due to hardship and companies no longer taking on new cases to decrease their exposure to the program, vital months are lost during the children’s most malleable years.  This gap of time cannot be recaptured, and the “make-up” efforts down the line are significantly more costly to both the families and the state at large via the burden passed on to the school systems and social supports.  Kicking the can down the line simply cannot happen to the children of Illinois.

What Can You Do to Help?

  1. Email or Call Susana Mendoza, Illinois Comptroller, through her established state web page and let her know that prompt payment is essential for the children of our state.  email to:  https://illinoiscomptroller.gov/contact/general-comments/
    phone:  855-452-7587
  2. Email / fax / call your Illinois General Assembly Legislators personally to let them know you oppose these cuts! Don’t know who your rep is? You can look it up online through the state’s board of elections site: http://www.elections.il.gov/districtlocator/addressfinder.aspx
  3. Have your friends, family members, and the patients you serve do the same!
  4. Join the EI Facebook page for updates and more information: https://www.facebook.com/groups/isupportei/  There will be upcoming budget hearings beginning in March.


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