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Developmentally Delayed or Disabled Children Receive Care They Need

November 5, 2012
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A First 5 LA grantee has helped more than 5,000 children age 0-5 with developmental delays or disabilities to get the care they need as part of a countywide referral program that has proven to be very beneficial to underserved families across Los Angeles County.

The 211 Los Angeles County Developmental Screening and Care Coordination Project targets families with children age 0-5 who call 211 to inquire about programs and services available to assist low-income families. Of the 500,000 calls the 211 L.A. County program receives each year, about 84,000 come from families with children 0-5, said Project Director Patricia Herrera.

"Kids who get intervention early can be mainstreamed into regular schools and have minimal need for more expensive and lifelong interventions," Herrera said. "Even if they continue to have a disability, they will lead a more independent life. You really invest up front, which is what First 5 LA is all about, or you have to provide lifelong intervention."

This project was launched in 2009 in response to a recommendation from the Early Identification and Intervention Collaborative of L.A. County, a coalition of more than 350 agencies and individuals. The goal was to ensure that every child in the county is provided developmental screening early and often.

"We wanted to improve the low detection rate of delayed and developmentally disabled underserved children," Herrera said. Early identification is critical, she said, noting only about 2.4 percent of children age 0-5 with disabilities or mental issues nationally receive early intervention services.

"Locally, we refer families to the right care provider or agency, who in turn assess their kids with comprehensive developmental assessment and intervention," Herrera noted. "We then identify what services are most appropriate for the child. Without this program, for many families, these services would be out of reach and the kids would suffer."

By calling 211 any time, any day, families can access information in many languages and services that have a great positive impact on their children's lives, Herrera said. The federal, state and county governments cover the costs for the services and care to which the families are referred. "211 L.A. County is making the future brighter for the children of L.A. County," Herrera said.

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