Preview-Senate Health And Human Services Committee To Hold Hearing On Early Intervention Tomorrow

TRENTON – The Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee will hold a hearing tomorrow on the State’s Early Intervention (EI) system for children with disabilities, according to Senate Health Committee Vice Chair, Senator Ellen Karcher, and Committee Chair, Senator Joseph F. Vitale.

“I recommended that we hold a hearing on EI to bring this program into the public’s eye,” said Senator Karcher, D-Monmouth and Mercer. “Because I did not know that EI services were out there, I had a child who entered the program 6 months before she would have been ineligible. The experience that I went through makes me concerned that other families are experiencing similar problems.”

Early Intervention refers to services provided to children between the ages of 0-3 who have a developmental disability or delay. It has been scientifically proven that the best time to mitigate the effects of the disability or delay is during this three year period of a child’s life. Currently, the EI program serves approximately 14,000 children statewide.

“EI has helped so many in New Jersey, but with greater exposure and more support from the State, it can impact many more lives,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex. “By giving the EI officials an opportunity, in a public forum, to discuss the services available through the State for disabled children, we will hopefully raise awareness among those who can benefit most from those services.”

The senators said that the committee will specifically discuss the operations of programs and services provided through EI to eligible children, including the status of a draft of Department of Health and Senior Services regulations concerning Early Intervention. The committee will also take testimony from representatives from statewide advocacy groups for children with disabilities on the effectiveness of the State’s EI system.

“Sometimes, an advocate’s perspective is necessary to point out vulnerabilities or possible areas for improvement that will ultimately make EI a better statewide service,” said Senator Karcher, D-Monmouth and Mercer. “I look forward to some constructive criticism from our State’s advocacy community to help make EI the best that it can be in serving children with disabilities in New Jersey.”

The committee will meet tomorrow at 10:00 AM in Committee Room 1, on the first floor of the Statehouse Annex.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE SENATE CALENDAR FOR FEBRUARY 3, 2005