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Trouble for Wayne early intervention program

Arc Wayne Director David Calhoun will be the first to tell you that early intervention is an effective way to help special needs children from birth to age 3 by attacking their challenges early on.

“It can offset long-time issues if you can get to them early enough,” he said.

But with state reimbursement rates to help pay for the program frozen at 1999 levels, it has become more difficult by the year to provide those services, he said.

This year might be the breaking point for the Newark-based agency, which provides both center- and home-based early intervention (EI) services.

Calhoun said with early intervention “woefully underfunded” across the state, Arc Wayne is pondering ending its program — which provides speech, physical and occupational therapy, as well as comprehensive evaluations of children to determine what, if any, therapies are needed.

If Arc Wayne does so, the program will not go away. It’s a federally mandated service, meaning Wayne County would have to find a way to fill the gaps.

Diane Devlin, director of Wayne County Public Health, brought the issue to Wayne County supervisors last week, telling them that Arc Wayne will lose nearly $14,000 for every child getting early intervention services in 2019 — whether program-based at Roosevelt Children’s Center in Newark or in the home.

“We’ve struggled with the program for years,” Calhoun said. “It’s taken a loss for multiple years.”

Indeed, Devlin said Arc Wayne’s early intervention operating deficit is about $250,000 a year, with that gap expected to only rise.

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