Chair Oliverson and Members of the Committee,
Thank you for taking the time to read my testimony on HB 843. My name is Lauren Gerken, and I am a Public Policy Analyst for the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities (TCDD).
TCDD is established by state and federal law and is governed by 27 Governor-appointed board members, 60 percent of whom are individuals with developmental disabilities or family members of individuals with disabilities. The Council’s purpose in law is to encourage policy change so that people with disabilities have opportunities to be fully included in their communities and exercise control over their own lives.
The Council identified ECI as one of its 2021 Public Policy Priorities, and adopted the following language in preparation for the current legislative session:
Address the gaps between state funding and the required services for a growing population of infants and toddlers who enroll in ECI. Support efforts to maximize and streamline funding for ECI in Texas by working collaboratively with other state agencies, ECI programs, and lawmakers. Support efforts to increase efficiencies within ECI by addressing continuing eligibility, engaging in state-specific research on ECI’s long-term impact, and ensuring families are fully educated about available services, including Medicaid waiver interest lists.
An October 2020 federal investigation of the Texas ECI program determined that the state is in violation of federal law by under-enrolling infants and toddlers as a result of the state’s decrease in ECI funding over the last decade. In addition to increasing funding levels for ECI in House Appropriations, expanding insurance coverage for services through HB 846 would support Texas’ efforts towards federal compliance. The bill will free up state and federal funding for other ECI program needs. When a service is not covered by insurance, individual ECI providers are forced to rely on state or federal funds to ensure a child gets the services they are entitled to receive. Other times, families may deny critical services because they cannot afford them, which has long-term negative fiscal impacts on Texas and developmental impacts on the child.
Additionally, Texas identified a significant need regarding its funding structures, even before the federal government began its investigation. In the 86th legislative session, the state office for Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) received the Rider 98 mandate, which requires Texas ECI to explore ways to maximize state and federal funds. As the state office continues to research options, the Texas Legislature has a responsibility to support ECI’s efforts and offer avenues for efficiency while increasing access to vital services for babies and toddlers.
Thank you again for your time, and please feel free to use TCDD as a resource regarding ECI services.
Public Policy Analyst
Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities
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