BRYAN, Tex. (KBTX) - A program that gives children with developmental delays a head start on therapy has seen major funding cuts over the past couple of years.
Because of those cuts to Early Childhood Intervention, or ECI, local provider ECI Easter Seals East Texas says it has been financially forced to back out of the program.
The Contreras family says their son's life was changed through ECI.
"Our worlds were flipped upside down,” began Ana Contreras.
Almost three years ago, Ana’s son Ricardo, or RJ, was born with club foot. As his parents were coping with that, they noticed another issue.
"That was a stressful moment for us,” said Ricardo Sr., RJ’s father. “Just seeing that he wasn't using one arm at all."
Doctors told them RJ had suffered a pediatric stroke, now affecting the left side of his body. Between that and the club foot, RJ would need physical therapy—a lot of it—starting right away.
"The problem we ran into early was our deductible at the time was 3000 dollars,” said Ana Contreras. “How am I going to financially help him get through this?"
“And then ECI came along,” said Ricardo Contreras, Sr.
The program cut RJ's therapy costs 80 percent, and, the family says, changed the course of his life.
"He was having a lot of trouble standing,” said Ana Contreras of her son’s condition. "[Easter Seal East Texas therapists] would put things on the couch and have him on the floor and really encourage him to try to pull up on his own.”
“And I remember, I can still see the day that he did it,” Ana Contreras said through tears. “In that moment, I knew he was so determined—and he was going to be fine."
It’s a feeling and a service Ana Contreras doesn't want other parents, or other children, to go without.
"There's no other way around it,” she said. “Without this early intervention, who knows how much more it's going to cost down the line?”
Families in this area who qualify for ECI will still be able to get these services even after Easter Seal East Texas doesn't offer them anymore. ECI is currently working to find another provider who will take up the contract for Brazos Valley kids in need.
The Contreras family would like to specifically thank the following at Easter Seals East Texas:
Carol South, physical therapist
Halei Colbert, services Coordinator
Jill Hodges, occupational therapist
Nancy Lugo, Early intervention specialist
Sandy Yasskin, occupational therapist
Teresa Scamardo, physical therapist
Janette Mejia, physical therapist assistant