Letter to the Editor

Your view: Keep First Steps

Thursday, February 17, 2005

I strongly disagree with the Governor's claim that eliminating First Steps funding will save taxpayer money. First Steps provides benefits that can't be substituted at any other point in time. Without First Steps, children will be more delayed and public schools will find that their students require more intensive and expensive services. it will be much harder for these kids to make up ground and the state will run the risk of supporting them for the rest of their lives.

My nephew, Joe, contracted viral encephalitis at age one month. He has cerebral palsy, epilepsy and is developmentally delayed. Through First Steps, he has received physical, occupational and speech therapy and his family has received the peace of mind of knowing that they are doing all they can. I have seen firsthand the impact First Steps has had on his life.

Governor Blunt wants us to believe that children will receive the same services through Medicaid and private insurance. Medicaid is limited by income. Working middle class families face making too much money to qualify for the program but not enough to afford expensive therapies and equipment.

For those families lucky enough to have private insurance, coverage is inadequate. For my nephew, insurance pays only $1,000 per year for his physical, occupational and speech therapies. His therapies cost over $1,000 per month. Insurance also pays little or nothing for equipment such as wheelchairs, walkers, bath chairs and orthotics, which can cost thousands of dollars.

Families of children with disabilities are stretched thin both financially and emotionally. Governor Blunt promised to protect Missouri families. It appears that his promise does not include families of children with disabilities.

Paul McFerron,