St. Mary’s Healthcare System for Children in Bayside will end its 20-year Early Intervention program in May due to lack of adequate funding from the state.
The program will close May 5 and St. Mary’s will relocate 750 children living in the metropolitan area, many from the region’s most underserved neighborhoods, to other agencies.
The EI program operated by St. Mary’s served 3,000 youngsters from newborn to 3 years old last year. System spokeswoman Leslie Johnson said Tuesday the hospital hopes to place its workers with other agencies as well.
“The program, which includes evaluation and service provision, is home-based and will not affect other programs and services offered by St. Mary’s,” Johnson said.
The hospital treats children with complex medical issues and is located at 29-01 216 St. It completed an expansion program in 2012.
The decision to end the EI program was made after the state Department of Health made multiple cuts to its reimbursement rates, “and with no additional funding included in the proposed 2014-15 state budget, St. Mary’s EI program cannot be sustained,” Johnson said.
Christopher Treiber, associate executive director for children’s services at the InterAgency Council, said that EI rates have not increased in 12 years, “making it almost impossible for not-for-profit providers, with hospital-based providers in particular, to operate.”
His organization is made up of voluntary service groups working with individuals with developmental disabilities in the metropolitan area.
Dr. Edwin Simpser, St. Mary’s interim president and CEO, said the decision to close the program was very difficult. “We know that these are challenging times for other EI providers who are experiencing similar struggles,” he said, “and we will continue to advocate for more appropriate reimbursement rates for vital childhood programs, including Early Intervention, that are so essential to the success and future of our children.”