SANFORD, Maine — Last spring, thousands of children ages 3 to 5 across the state with diagnoses of Autism, developmental delay, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, and other disabilities were on the brink of having their critically necessary, federally mandated, therapies and educational treatment eliminated. Changes in the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Maine Care and Department of Education (DOE) Child Development Services programs, that would result in severely restricted eligibility criteria and funding reductions up to 50%, were just weeks away from being implemented. These drastic changes would have led to dozens of special purpose preschool programs, from Kittery to Fort Kent, having no choice but to close their doors and classrooms with hundreds of dedicated and highly skilled teachers and assistants losing their jobs.
It was at this point that Senate Majority Leader Jonathan Courtney, along with Senator President Kevin Rave and House Speaker Robert Nutting, called and coordinated late night and early morning meetings with DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew, DOE Commissioner Steven Bowen, their respective staff, and representatives from the Maine Association for Community Service Providers (MACSP). Through their efforts a crisis was avoided and the safety net of services for some of Maineâ€™s youngest and most vulnerable population remained intact.
In order to fully understand the magnitude of the effort put forth by these legislature leaders, it is important to understand and put into context what else was taking place in the state house. At a time when the full legislative focus was on getting the state budget passed and their already fully committed schedules had led to meeting for days and nights with just a few hours of rest, these 3 men carved out time to stand up and do the right thing for Maine children.
Recently, Senator Raye was visiting Senator Courtney in his home town of Sanford and both stopped by Wabanâ€™s Fraser-Ford Child Development Center to meet some of the children and see first hand what they had helped accomplish. In order to express their gratitude, the Senators were presented with a handmade book that had all the childrenâ€™s handprints and names along with numerous pictures. When presenting the childrenâ€™s gift, Neal Meltzer, Wabanâ€™s Executive Director, said, “It is important to remember the impact that Senator Raye and Senator Courtney have had in ensuring that some of Maineâ€™s most vulnerable citizens received the services that they so urgently need. Each year, the Fraser-Ford Child Development Center provides essential Early Intervention services to over 120 preschool children with special needs and graduates forty 5-year olds who go on to mainstream kindergartens. Without their efforts, Maine would have been out of compliance with federal special education laws and these children and thousands of others across the state would not have had the opportunity to succeed.”
Contact Name: Neal Meltzer
Telephone Number: (207)324-7955