Advocates are demanding Monroe County Executive Cheryl Dinolfo keep her promise to the thousands of children in need of preschool special education services.
Parents who spoke out at Tuesday's Monroe County Legislature meeting said a lack of funding in Monroe County and across the state put children with disabilities on a waiting list for a variety of critical services. Advocates rallied together at the meeting calling on Dinolfo to fulfill her promise of a 15 percent reimbursement rate increase across the board.
Parents said the bipartisan promise Dinolfo made in March doesn't cover certain service providers and they want change now.
"These are 3 to 5-year-old children who maybe have a speech issue that need a few months of speech therapy and will then be ready to go for kindergarten,” said Brigit Hurley, advocacy director at the Children’s Agenda. “It could be a child with multiple disabilities who needs therapy."
"From a mom's perspective that almost lost their child if I did not have the support of that system; there's 198 children that could potentially not be here,” said parent Brittany Jencik. “It's scary to me as a parent. On a much broader level, it does make the difference for these children."
Monroe County Director of Communications Jesse Sleezer confirmed Tuesday that the county would be implementing a group rate in conjunction with increases.
"Once the group rates became known to the providers, the County actually sat down with the providers again to re-adjust those group rates and incorporate their concerns and make sure they were part of the process," Sleezer said. "That's in addition to the fact that the county and its representatives meet with providers through a scheduled meeting that meets every month."
"There are meeting minutes that reflect that providers were engaged in a conversation about the county implementing new group rates in 2019, as early as March of 2018. So, this conversation has been ongoing with providers for upwards of a year at this point," he added.