Parents concerned as Kentucky set to take over 'First Steps' pro - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Parents concerned as Kentucky set to take over 'First Steps' program

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Seven County Services says it has been notified that a program it runs to help developmentally delayed children will be moved to the state. Some parents are concerned about how this change will impact their child's care. 

Kids like Henry Hinson are part of the "First Steps" program. He was born with Spina Bifida. Erin Hinson says her son has had 10 surgeries and has made more than 20 trips to the E.R., but he's still come a long way in just two years.

"Through First Steps, we have seen Henry thrive," Hinson said. "He is doing far more than doctors told us when they delivered the diagnosis when I was 18 weeks pregnant that he ever would."

Hinson says Henry was evaluated for First Steps at around two-months-old. Through the program, she says Henry's therapies are integrated into daily life -- with visits at home and at Henry's School.

Seven Counties says about 1,500 families in our area rely on these kinds of services.

"It is a statewide system but the program actually started here in Jefferson County with seven counties. We wrote the first grant for the early intervention system," said Jean Russell, the Vice President for Developmental and Disability Services at Seven Counties.

She says the state has decided to move First Steps, which serves kids up to three-years-old, to the Commission on Children with Special Health Care Needs.

A statement from Jill Midkiff, a spokesperson for the Cabinet for Health and Family Services says in part, "As its name implies, the Commission serves children with special health needs from ages zero to 21 years. The Cabinet believes this change will further enhance services to children and families by providing greater continuity of care for children after they age out of the First Steps program, particularly for children with more complex health care needs."

Russell said Seven Counties services was contacted about the change about three weeks ago.

"Of course we were saddened by that news and we've been very concerned since this notification about how will we transition this program," Russell said.

The organization says it's contract with the state runs through June of 2016 but the plans are to move the program in June of this year.

"Now I have to worry about Henry's continuity of care," Hinson said. "We're going to lose our service coordinator. It's not a guarantee that she'll get on with the state or that it'll be the same person. So this person who has known my family intimately is no more."

With about 45 service employees jobs in limbos and family care on the line, Seven Counties Services wants more time to make the switch.

"We are very concerned that really with four months to go until June 30 of 2015, it's not adequate time to smoothly transition this program for 1,500 families," Russell said. 

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