Because You Matter: East Texas families fighting to keep ECI services

Because You Matter

For years, local parents who have children with developmental delays and medical conditions have been able to depend on therapy through the Andrews Center in Tyler.  But as of September 30th, the center’s contract for Early Childhood Intervention services will end, leaving hundreds of patients without the therapies they need.

A few months after birth,11-month-old Mia Henninger was diagnosed with Spina biffda.

“She had a tethered spinal cord which ended up affecting her left side, her left leg and left foot, causing weakness and lack of sensation,” her mother Amanda Henninger said.

She’s one of almost 300 children in the East Texas area who relies on the therapies through the Andrews Center.

“There have been continuing budget cuts, government budget cuts to the funding to ECI programs,” physical therapist Julienne Stewart said.

For Mia, this means she might not get the occupational therapy she needs.

“Working on her core strength, helping her to be able to sit up properly, hold herself up properly, learn how to catch herself if she’s falling,” Henninger said.

She found out earlier this summer the center was ending its’ ECI contract, but she says she was told another agency would pick it up.

“I was concerned i said is this a federal funding issue, are they cutting funds and she said no the funds are there, the state just needs to find someone else to fund the services,” Henninger said.

So far that has not happened, meaning there may be a gap in services.

“A month, two months in a baby’s life is like years to adults as far as developmental progress and if Mia loses that month or two months, it puts us back,” Henninger said.

Stewart said some families don’t have other options.

“Some of the children in our programs may not qualify for home health services or different other programs, and many of the families can’t afford to pay for those services out of pocket,” Stewart said.

Families are signing a petition to send to Austin, saying “even the government cannot sustain their own federally funded and mandated program.”

The petition also says drastic cuts to Medicaid for Texas therapy providers are to blame, saying the Andrews Center lost over $300,000 for housing ECI last year.

The Andrews Center tells us they would not comment until the state’s negotiations with another agency are complete.

But many families are left wondering when that will happen.

“Whoever is dropping the ball, I don’t think they’re seeing faces, I think they see numbers and dollar signs,” Henninger said.

KETK contacted the Texas Department of Health and Human Services, but they did not comment as of news time.

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