TRENTON – Senator Ellen Karcher said that she was pleased with today’s Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee hearing on New Jersey’s Early Intervention (EI) program for children with developmental disabilities, but added that she’d like to see a greater public presence of EI to raise awareness of the services offered by the State and to get more kids enrolled.
“In my own life, as a mother of an EI-eligible child, I know that the State can do a better job informing new parents of their options,” said Senator Karcher, D-Monmouth and Mercer, the Vice Chair of the Health Committee. “Even though I’ve been involved in analyzing health care in New Jersey for a number of years, I wasn’t aware of the EI program until six months before my daughter would have been ineligible. It’s crucial to get children with developmental disabilities children in at an early age to soften the impact that disability will have on their lives, and we need to put the word out for the services that are available to parents and their children.”
Early Intervention refers to services provided by the State for children between the ages of 0-3 who have a developmental disability or delay. Studies have shown that the best time to mitigate the effects of disability or delay is during the first three years of a child’s life. Currently, the EI program serves approximately 15,000 children statewide, but Senator Karcher said that she believes that number would be higher with greater public exposure of EI.
“I cannot think of a single reason any parent would have for not enrolling their eligible children into EI,” said Senator Karcher. “With the proven benefits of early intervention in helping children manage and overcome their developmental disabilities, one of the main obstacles keeping us from seeing greater participation in EI on a statewide level is a lack of knowledge of what services are out there.”
Senator Karcher added that through public cooperation with private advocates for citizens with developmental disabilities, New Jersey can vastly improve the quality of EI services it currently provides.
“EI is a high-quality program, but we have to constantly challenge ourselves to do better,” said Senator Karcher. “By engaging advocates in these kinds of hearings, looking at potential vulnerabilities in the program, and areas in which we can make improvements, we can constantly strive for an increasing standard in quality, to better serve New Jersey’s children with disabilities. Through partnerships with the advocacy community, we can make EI the absolute best that it can be.”