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Early intervention commitment great news for CEIP


AMHERST – The executive director of the Cumberland Early Intervention Program is applauding an initiative by the province to reduce wait times for children and families needing help from early intervention specialists.

The Cumberland Early Intervention Program is welcoming the results of a review of intervention programs across the province that will reduce or eliminate wait times. Executive director Erin Jolly (right) looks over program statistics with interventionist Andrea Meekins.

“What this means for us is it will significant reduce or eliminate our waiting list,” Erin Jolly said. “The final details have yet to be ironed out, but this is going to be a big help for us because it will mean we’ll get additional interventionists and be able to assist families in much more timely fashion.”

Jolly said there are more than 35 children and families on the waiting list at Cumberland early intervention and the time between a referral and initial visit can be up to a year when 10 years ago the wait might have been between a week and a month.

Education Minister Karen Casey said families who have children at risk of developmental delays will get support sooner because of an early intervention program review. The province plans to address four areas including improving access to early intervention, strengthening early intervention programs across the province, supporting and developing the early intervention workforce and aligning early intervention programs with the early years system and the public school system.

Early intervention programs, such as Cumberland County’s, deliver services for young children diagnosed with, or are at risk of, developmental delay. The services are designed to help both the child and the family from the time the baby is born to when they are old enough to go to school.

Programs also assist parents access resources they need to assist their children.

Jolly said CEIP has two full-time early interventionists while Jolly also handles a small caseload and does all the intake. Amherst was identified last year as an area with one of the highest wait lists in the province. Truro was another.

The program in Cumberland County is presently serving 40 children and their families.

“Things are pretty busy here and we have almost the same amount waiting,” Jolly said. “We’re hoping that this will eliminate that wait list so we’ll be able to get out quicker to meet them. Most people don’t mind waiting a month, but when you’re talking a whole year and you have a baby with developmental challenges a year is a long time.”

Jolly said one of the reasons for the increased wait time is more people are becoming aware of the program and are reaching out for help. Staff turnover several years ago also meant interventionists had to be recruited and trained – a process that slowed things down for families waiting for service.

Jolly is also pleased the province plans to look at the governance model and paying interventionists a higher salary. Lower wages have led to higher turnover among staff, although Jolly said there is more stability at the local office now.

The province plans to begin implementing its plans immediately, including the hiring of additional interventionists to handle the 300 children waiting for service.

"With this new approach and these actions, government is following through with its promise to increase support for early intervention programs across Nova Scotia and addressing the waitlist some families are experiencing," said Casey. "Adding more early interventionists is only the beginning.

"Over the next three years we will improve how early intervention programs work in Nova Scotia to make sure that our children and their families are receiving the support they need, when they need it and in their local community."

The department also plans to work with First Nations, African Nova Scotian, Acadian and immigrant communities to ensure they are aware of the services that are available. By working with local service providers, children will be referred as early as possible so they receive the services they need, when they need them.

Over the next few weeks, a team appointed by the minister will be developing a recommendation for a new governance structure. The new structure will work to more closely align early intervention programs with the early years system and the public school system and ensure consistency of services across the province.

Once the new structure is in place, the department will provide funding to help address low wages for early interventionists.

 

 

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