Information for Parents of Children with Cerebral Palsy

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Our medical malpractice attorneys focus on the representation of families whose children have developed a disability as a result of negligent medical care.


First Steps changes take effect
Associated Press

A state program for young disabled children will drop from 24 offices to 10 on Wednesday.

The First Steps program provides therapy and other services for children from birth to age 3 with physical or developmental disabilities, such as cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, blindness and deafness.

Melodie Friedebach, the assistant commissioner of education for the special education division, said the changes formalize the oversight and responsibility structure within the program.

Each of the 10 offices will have a permanent, full-time director and will be responsible for determining whether new applicants and people already on the program are actually eligible. In the past, the regional offices were not responsible for oversight.

"We're telling them they have to operate as a business and as a child-related entity," said Dale Carlson, the coordinator of the Special Education Administration.

Last year, Gov. Matt Blunt initially proposed to eliminate almost all the funding for First Steps, then backed a plan to change the way it operates. The Legislature eventually approved changes to increase oversight and require insurance providers, Medicaid or families to contribute money toward the program's costs.

Rep. Kathlyn Fares, chairwoman of the House Education Appropriations Committee, said First Steps was designed to teach parents how to help their disabled children.

"It's an education model," Fares, R-St. Louis, said. "A lot of people want it to be a medical model, but that was never its intent."

Friedebach said the program began to grow from its original intent because oversight was left to those who profit from a bigger program.

"The way this system is set up is a provider-driven system," she said. "Providers make money by providing more services. And so we cemented in a philosophy we've really had to fight in this state."

Like the previous 24 field offices, the 10 are independent contractors selected through a competitive bidding process. Three of the 10 will be run by new contractors.

The offices will be located in Cape Girardeau, Joplin, Kansas City, Mexico, North Kansas City, St. Charles, Sedalia, Springfield, Town & Country and Union.


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