Editorial: State's budget woes claims another casualty

Louisiana’s ongoing budget woes that resulted in mid-year cuts has claimed another casualty.

A program that provided assessment, counseling and case management for children age 6 and under in low-income families will

be terminated at the end of this month.

The end of the Early Childhood Supports

and Services will result in 76 employees being terminated or

transferred and the 540

youth and families served by the program shifted into the

Louisiana Behavioral Health Partnership, the state’s mental health

network.

State Department of Health and

Hospitals Secretary Bruce Greenstein said the program, which operated in

only six parishes

in the state, had already been targeted for elimination because it

was inefficient. He said he believes the children and families

it served can be treated with less cost to the state.

Advocates for the program say they are concerned that children served by the program will not receive the therapy they need

or will be subjected to long waits for services.

‘‘I’m just very concerned about where

our priorities lie as a state,’’ Janet Ketcham, executive director of

the McMains Children’s

Development Center in Baton Rouge told The Advocate.

The co-director of the program, Dr. Mary Margaret Gleason, said the Early Childhood Supports and Services helped families

meet basic needs and addressed mental health problems such as anxiety issues, aggressive behavior or post traumatic stress

disorder.

She said early intervention not only confronts the problem, but can save the state money in the long run.

Gleason said the decision to end the program scuttles her plans to apply for a grant that would make it easier for parents

to locate speech therapists for their children.

While the budget crunch is ridding the state of some inefficient programs, leaders must be careful not to toss the baby out

with the bath water.

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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney,

Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.