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Early Intervention Program funding cut

Washington County program loses $68,000 from government funds

Washington County program loses $68,000 from government funds

January 30, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Funding for the Washington County Early Intervention Program recently was cut, and officials with the group's governing body said they are brainstorming ways to cope with that loss.

The Early Intervention Program serves children from birth to 3 years old with developmental disabilities and their families, said Mariam Robins, coordinator of special education programs and itinerant services for Washington County Public Schools. The school system is the lead agency with the program and works with the county's Health Department, social services and other agencies.

Robins also is acting director of the Local Interagency Coordinating Council (LICC), which oversees the program.

The program serves more than 200 children and their families, she said. Children are offered free services to help with development and learning so the children will be on par with their peers when they reach kindergarten.

"The goal is for them to require less or no special education when they enter school," Robins said.

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The council met Tuesday to discuss several issues, including the decrease in funding the group can expect for the Early Intervention Program.

In March, the Early Intervention Program will lose about $68,000 it had been receiving from government medical assistance funds, Robins said.

Dawn Gist, co-chair of the LICC, said these cuts have been experienced statewide.

The amount of money the local program will receive from the state in the next fiscal year also will be the same as this year - $157,481, Robins said.

Gist said that will result in about 3 percent less money for the program because of the rising cost of equipment and salaries.

"We're required to provide these services, but we can't if we don't have the budget to do it," she said. "We were counting on that money."

Gist said the group plans to appeal to local and state elected officials for additional money and assistance. Gist also is the assistant director of The Learning Center in Hagerstown.

Washington County's Early Intervention Program also received more than $440,000 in "in kind" services from local agencies, officials said.

Gist said she hopes the local agencies that offer those services will not be forced to cut back due to decreases in their own funding.

For more information or questions about the Washington County Early Intervention Program, call 301-766-8217.

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