To borrow from Dickens, it is the best of times and the worst of times. I’ll start with the worst. We received budget cuts of over $1 million last week, and while we were fortunate that they were not deeper, they will have a profound impact on the families we serve. As every parent, teacher, doctor or therapist (and scientific study) can tell you, early intervention in the lives of children with developmental delays or other disabilities is by far the most effective and efficient time to receive physical, occupational, speech, vision, nutrition and other therapies. The Centers for Disease Control issued a report this month showing that 1 in 6 children has a developmental delay. These are our kids-and Texas just cut funding for the life-changing early intervention they need. More children will now arrive at school needing special education, therapy and intervention because they did not get services soon enough. It is the opposite of what any investor would do-save a penny and lose a dollar. Unfortunately, along with a lost dollar, these cuts also mean children are losing a window of opportunity to be healthier and better prepared for school.
The second big hit our families took last week was to available community supports for people with disabilities. Almost half of the funding was cut-meaning that the 1,300+ families we serve with our Respite Program will either lose services completely or face a big cut in what is available to them. Community supports in general, and respite in particular, have been consistently shown to reduce stress for caregivers, reduce abuse and neglect of people with disabilities and to result in better outcomes for employers (lower absenteeism, lower drug and alcohol abuse, etc.). In addition to the cuts, we are seeing what you would expect when the economy is bad, when more children have delays or disabilities, when Baby Boomers hit their senior years – demand for our services has never been higher just as budget cuts hit hard.
With that said, there is good news, too. SNApps4kids just became part of Easter Seals Houston. The use of touch-based technologies like Droids and ipads is already changing the way parents, teachers and therapists are helping children (and adults!) achieve better therapeutic band educational outcomes. Check out SNApps4kids and get a glimpse of the power of this technology and apps to help kids succeed. We are confident that using these technologies will save a lot of money in therapy and educational costs because many children can make gains really quickly by using them.
Easter Seals Houston is also lucky to have people inspired to help us-they are smart, generous and passionate. Care2Spin ™– a way anyone can help Easter Seals – is launching this week. YOU can become a champion for Easter Seals. You decide how much or little time, money or energy you want to give to help us address the needs of people with disabilities. John Eagle Honda has already stepped up and is committing $100,000! Their CEO, Mac DeLaup, who is truly the real deal, said it best – “this is not about me-it has to be about the children. It is on us to find solutions and I want to be part of helping fix these problems.” If the leadership, strength and thoughtfulness had been as pervasive in Austin as it is in Houston in people like Mac-Easter Seals would not need your help. But, we do.
Don’t let the bad news paralyze you – become part of the 60+ year tradition of Easter Seals’ excellent services by helping us now. Because almost $.90 cents of every dollar we receive goes directly to helping our clients (the other ten cents pays for things like rent, audits, phones, etc.), you can be confident that this was a great investment in our kids and our community. Here is what you can do. Learn about early intervention and join us in letting legislators and other leaders know that early intervention is imperative for our kids. Make the 1st Five Count. You can also help in a more immediate, fun, local way by joining us in the Care2Spin solution. If we give2gether™ Houston will be better, our kids will be healthier, and our families will be stronger. Take a minute now by going to www.care2spin.com. So, come on – your help will matter!!!
Elis Hough, CEO, Easter Seals Greater Houston