Gov. Jay Nixon today joined parents, providers and advocates at Abilities First in Springfield to discuss the importance of First Steps, Missouri's early intervention program for infants and toddlers, birth to age 3, who have developmental delays or disabilities.
"For more than two decades, with strong bipartisan support, the First Steps program has provided effective early intervention services for infants and children with developmental delays or disabilities," Gov. Nixon said. "These services help families give their children the best possible start, and reduce the need for more costly interventions later in life. Unfortunately, the legislature's budget needlessly pits funding for First Steps against funding for low-income seniors. Such a tradeoff is not necessary and should not be tolerated, especially when it comes to our state's most vulnerable citizens."
Last year, First Steps served more than 10,000 children and demand for these services continues to grow. Gov. Nixon's budget proposal included $20 million in general revenue for the First Steps program, an increase of $1.5 million from the current fiscal year. Both the House and Senate included this funding in their original budgets before changing course and making funding for First Steps contingent on the elimination of a program benefiting low-income seniors. Yesterday, the Senate Veterans' Affairs and Health Committee passed legislation that would protect full funding for First Steps and ensure children continue to receive the support and services they need.
"First Steps has helped thousands of infants and toddlers with early impairments reach their full potential," Gov. Nixon said. "Legislation is moving forward that would resolve this issue, and I urge the General Assembly to get it to my desk this week."
About Abilities First: The mission of Abilities First is to advocate, enhance services, and positively impact the lives of Greene County citizens with developmental disabilities. Abilities First helps people with developmental disabilities acquire the services and supports they need to live and work in our community. The Board of Abilities First is committed to improving existing services and facilitating the development of new resources for our community.