Message from Commissioner Debra Wanser About Changes in ECI Eligibility
I would like to thank the parents, physicians, advocates and providers who submitted written comments on our rules. Your concern for children with developmental delays and your support for ECI are very evident and much appreciated.
You may know that the DARS funding appropriation for Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) services for fiscal years 2012 and 2013 was about 14 percent less than funding levels for the program in 2011. As a result, DARS will narrow eligibility criteria for the ECI program.
The positive news is that we will not have to narrow as much as we originally thought when we first proposed rules in May 2011. We believe that we will continue to be able to serve those children and families most in need of our services. We are funded to serve, on average, almost 28,000 children and their families per month.
Effective September 1, 2011, a child will be eligible for ECI services if he or she:
- Has a medically diagnosed condition that has a high probability of resulting in developmental delay. This has not changed.
- Has an auditory or visual impairment as determined by school district personnel using Texas Education Agency criteria. This has not changed.
- Has a delay of at least 25% in one or more areas of development (motor, communication, cognition, social-emotional or self-help). For example, a child who is 16 months of age would have to have a delay of four months or more to be eligible. This is slightly more delay than would have been required in the past (in this example, three months).
The new eligibility criteria will apply to children who enroll in the program on September 1, 2011 or after. Families currently enrolled will continue to receive services and have their eligibility re-determined at least annually, as required by federal regulations. Children’s continuing eligibility is based on having a medically diagnosed condition, auditory/visual impairment or evidence of a developmental delay.
DARS ECI will continue to identify and use all available funding sources while adhering to federal and state regulations. In addition, we have implemented several changes to both maintain and enhance the quality of our services. Our goal is to safeguard ECI's long term viability while ensuring alignment with the strengths and priorities of the program. Thank you again for your continued support and interest.