Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Long Wait for Therapy Services

If your child needs developmental therapy, good luck getting the services. The state is behind on its payments to speech therapists and developmental therapists by 2-3 months. Many of them are looking for new jobs because they can't pay their bills. This, on top of a national shortage for speech therapists.

Speech Pathologist Sarah Ziemba says she absolutely loves her job, but she can't continue like this. She has been getting paid at least two months late since last December. "For me it has been a different way of thinking about things. What can I pay? What do I have to pay? Now I am looking for a new job. Providers are dropping out of the program because of the delay. In the last week, three therapists gave notice or cut back their hours. Kids are waiting for 3-4 months right now for speech. If things continue they will have to wait longer,” said Ziemba.

If therapists don't start getting paid, Ziemba worries kids will really struggle to get the help they need in a timely manner. Often times, the younger a child starts therapy, the better they do in school. Ziemba said, "I am a single mom with three kids. How can I bee a responsible parent/adult and continue to do the job I love? I worked hard to get this far. Do I get a new career, a side job or just quit?"

Developmental therapist Karissa Schmitz is in the same boat. She says it's not easy to keep your credentials for these types of jobs. She worries if people start looking elsewhere for work, they will lose their certification and the state will be extremely short on therapists. "It would be costly and take a lot of time to get those credentials back. Historically we have always seen a lack of therapists in the state. This is making it much worse," said Schmitz.

What about families who have kids who desperately need these services? What are they supposed to do? Ziemba said, "It is very frustrating for families. Some families are really out of luck. It feels so out of our hands. I think it will take a lot of people rallying together to get something changed.All social service programs are having similar issues. We are in the top ten of the worst states financially."

Ziemba says they only way to get your child therapy services immediately would be to pay out of pocket and have an independent contractor come to your home. She says some families who can afford to are resorting to this. The state pays therapies around $130 an hour. Most kids who see a therapist go once or twice a week.

I called the comptroller's office and Communications Director Alan Henry says they are getting about 3000 calls a week from state employees who are not getting their paychecks. Henry says right now the comptroller's office has $4.3 billion in bills that need to be paid-over 168,000 bills in all! Some bills date back to July 1st. He says the government is spending a lot more than it's taking in and there isn't a whole lot he can do. He says it is up to state leaders to figure out. "Everybody deserves to get paid on time, but a lot of people aren't who deserve it," said Henry.

What can you do? Call your representative and ask them what they are doing to resolve this problem before it gets worse.

Ziemba and Schmitz say not to give up if you think your child needs developmental help because birth to three learning is extremely important. You can still get a FREE developmental screening in a timely manner by calling Child and Family Connections. In Peoria, it's (309) 672-6360. If you need the services, the wait will most likely be several months, but you can fight to get in sooner!

-NewsAnchorMom Jen

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