Sunday, May 31, 2009

NY hospital cuts services to disabled children

From WGRZ-TV in Buffalo, N.Y.:

Nineteen month old Garrett Andres has a prosthetic arm and goes to Children's Hospital for therapy every Thursday.

Five year old Colin Slevin was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome through an early intervention evaluation.

And Raven Thuman is a little girl with Cerebral Palsy, who attends preschool and receives therapy with a certified specialist at the same place.

All three of these children will now have to go somewhere else for services.

Joanne Thuman, Raven's mother, says, "We're gonna place her in somewhere that's not as quality as this. That's just the bottom line."

Parents and some workers rallied to keep the programs in place, including early intervention services and therapeutic preschool.

But, in a statement, Kaleida Health writes: "With over $10 million in state budget cuts this year, unsustainable programs that are not core to our hospital operations, unfortunately, are victim."

For these parents and kids, changing therapists and teachers will be another hardship they will have to overcome.

"I'm just a mom, I'm a mom with a kid. I don't know any different. This is what I have. This is life, so you know, you just deal. But it is extremely frustrating, I have to say because when you find the place that you love it would be so much easier of course to stick with it," says Thuman.

And while there may be other places to go, things won't be the same.

Kristina Slevin says her son has benefitted immensely from the services. She wanted somewhere that he could be with other children who are high-functioning Asperger's and worried he might regress in another atmosphere.

"And we were worried how effective a place would be," she said.

Gary Server watched his grandson graduate from the pre-school program and works in education.

"I myself have seen lots of programs, I haven't seen a program better than this," Server says.

And for a few parents like Amy Andres and her son Garrett, they haven't found a place that specializes in myoelectric arms for kids.

"It's a very unique disability, there's not that many areas to go, place to go to," she says.

Garrett has been fitted for several arms and just recently became able to pick up an item and hand it back.

"It just breaks my heart to see. He's made such progress, to make him stop, I can't imagine how anyone could make him stop in the middle of such amazing things," she says.

The programs will end in June and August and Kaleida says it has been working with parents since March to move the children. Parents are still hoping there's a chance they will reconsider.