TYLER - A program that has changed the lives of East Texas kids with disabilities is closing its doors. The early childhood intervention program at the Andrews Center in Tyler is set to close at the end of September.
ECI therapists come into the homes of children who need a little extra help developing, but because of state budget cuts and a contract that won't be renewed, the program has to find a new home – fast; or hundreds of children will be left without the help they need.
For Misty Alvarado, the ECI program has been a saving grace.
“My youngest one is currently using their services for physical therapy and speech therapy and without them, I don't have a lot of options,” Alvarado said.
But come Sept. 30, that therapy will come to an end unless another agency picks up the program.
“They have taught him how to move, from crawling to walking, to climbing,” Alvarado said. “We're walking on speech right now, we're working on important things like feeding and getting his attention.”
Julienne Stewart is a physical therapist with ECI and she’s concerned about a job.
“Everybody’s thinking what do we do? Do we wait and see if a new agency is going to hire us? Do we go ahead and start looking for other jobs? You know everybody is kind of in turmoil,” Stewart said.
She's just one of the many employees who will be without a job, but that's not what hurts the most.
“It’s huge for those families because many of these families may not be able to get services elsewhere,” Stewart said. “They may have tried with home health agencies and they either didn't qualify or they don't take their insurance.”
That's where Alvarado stands, left having to find other programs, which may not be covered and are costly. She said she's seen costs rack up to nearly $5,000 a child per year.
“ I don't understand how somebody could cut funds and take that away from the most precious innocent little people who light up this universe and need independence,” Alvarado said.
But she has hope the program will find another agency before the end of this month.
“My children's lives depend on it, their future is in their hands,” Alvarado said. “Their independence, how can one live without it?”
Employees with ECI are hoping for the same thing, but many of them have already found other jobs.
CBS 19 is told a state agency in Longview had expressed interest in the program, but never committed.
(© 2016 KYTX)