State Agency Broke Law by Ending Critical Children’s Therapy in East Texas

Posted on

January 13, 2017

Edie Surtees, Communications Director
(512) 407-2739

TYLER, TEXAS—Last October, Disability Rights Texas (DRTx), a nonprofit legal advocacy agency, and its pro bono co-counsel, Baker McKenzie, filed a complaint against the Texas Health and Humans Services Commission (HHSC) accompanied by a request for a due process hearing on behalf of 2-year-old Haylee.

Haylee, who has significant developmental disabilities, was receiving services through HHSC’s Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) program. After receiving therapy through ECI for 18 months, Haylee’s services suddenly stopped.

Medicaid rate cuts have dramatically reduced state funding to service providers in Texas forcing providers such as Haylee’s to withdraw from the ECI program. On October 1, 2016, Haylee’s ECI provider, the Andrews Center, ceased providing services to hundreds of children in east Texas, citing state funding cuts as the cause.

Last week, a hearing officer from HHSC issued a formal decision that the state of Texas violated the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and related state law for allowing interruption in services for Haylee. The hearing
officer refused to make an exception to HHSC’s obligation to provide services even though the Andrews Center withdrew from the ECI program and the state had difficulty finding a replacement. HHSC is still legally required to provide services.

The state was ordered to begin services again in full for Haylee within seven days of the decision being issued.

The ruling found HHSC responsible for the following legal violations:

  • failure to provide early intervention services
  • failure to provide required continued or replacement services after the provider ceased services
  • failure to promptly hold an Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) meeting to address changed circumstances

“This is an important win for Haylee and hundreds of other kids across Texas faced with this unfortunate situation,” said Nick Kennedy, an attorney with Baker McKenzie who worked on the case with DRTx. “The law is clear, and the judge agreed, that the state has an absolute responsibility to provide these critical services. This lapse was a direct violation of the IDEA.”

If you are the parent of a child receiving ECI services in Texas, and those services have been suddenly stopped or reduced, please call the DRTx intake line to request free legal help. The toll free number is 1-800-252-9108, and hours are Monday through Friday, 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. Parents can also complete an online request at any time at intake.DRTx.org.

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Disability Rights Texas (previously named Advocacy Inc.) is the federally designated legal protection and advocacy agency (P&A) for people with disabilities in Texas. We are a nonprofit whose mission is to help people with disabilities understand and exercise their rights under the law, ensuring their full and equal participation in society. Visit www.DRTx.org for more information on our scope of services.