Budget cuts slash program for disabled children

By Krystal Allan - bio | email

WAVELAND, MS (WLOX) - Stacy Schootz got a letter this past Thursday saying her two and half year-old son Hunter would not longer be getting the help he needs.

"This was completely out of the blue.  I'm worried you know.  This is their best start," says Schootz.

Hunter, who has down syndrome, was receiving weekly in-home occupational, physical and speech therapy through a free program called Project Prints. It helps disabled children from birth up to three years old. Schootz says cuts to the department of health are depriving her son and special-needs children like him out of services vital to their development.

"It's just setting them up for failure. These kids won't have services until they turn three when the school district picks them up. But, the school district doesn't have adequate services to provide for these kids," says Schootz.

But, it's not just the services Hunter will be losing, it's the bond he and other children have developed with their therapists.

"Ms. Evie is just absolutely wonderful. It's bad enough she's out of job. She loves her Hunter, and you know, you just can't put a price on that," says Schootz.

The letter said the children will now be under a program called First Steps. But, Schootz says she was told the program doesn't have funding for therapy.

"There's no money whatsoever to keep these services up anywhere; I can't buy that," say Schootz.

When it comes to children like her son, Schootz says the program is one the state can't afford not to invest in.

There'll be an informational meeting at the Project Prints office on Wednesday, January 21st, at 6 pm.  It's off 21st Avenue in Gulfport.