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Gov. Nixon asks Assembly to fund program for disabled children

The Missouri General Assembly has begun the final week of its 2013 legislative session. Barring a special session, the House and state Senate have until May 17 to complete the state's legislative business for the year. Among the items yet to be determined is funding for First Steps, an early intervention program for young children with developmental disabilities that may qualify them to receive Supplemental Security Income benefits.

First Steps provides educational resources for parents of children with developmental disabilities or delays. It also gets parents in touch with resources in their communities to help with therapy and other interventions.

Funding for First Steps was recently removed from the budget proposals in the House and Senate for fiscal year 2014. Speaking at a Springfield facility that helps implement resources to disabled children, Gov. Jay Nixon urged legislators on May 14 to put the money back into the budget. Legislators are working on it but Nixon said they need to reach a solution more quickly. He said that budget cuts should not come at the expense of "our state's most vulnerable citizens."

Also at the event was an early childhood instructor. She said that sustained early intervention can significantly improve a developmentally disabled child's level of independence later in life.

While early intervention no doubt makes a difference for many disabled children, in some cases families will still face dire financial straits trying to pay for a child's unique medical and childcare challenges. SSI benefits are distributed based on need to families in that situation.

Source: Springfield News-Leader, "Nixon calls on lawmakers to find funds for children with disabilities," Caludette Riley, May 14, 2013

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