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For Immediate Release: Sept. 15, 2008
Contact: Mary Stadick Smith - (605) 773-7228

Birth to Three: Services to continue, provider rates to change

A popular program that provides services to children with developmental delays will continue in South Dakota, with modifications approved by the state Board of Education today.

“Federal funding for the Birth to Three program has remained fairly steady at the same time demand for services has grown,” said Secretary of Education Rick Melmer. “We all recognize how valuable the program is, but we need to make some tough decisions if we want to keep serving these youngsters and their families,” Melmer said.

Approximately 1,900 children, ages birth to three years, received early intervention services through Birth to Three last year. Expenditures for the program have increased an average of 13 percent between 2004 and 2007. Federal funding has not changed significantly during that same period, and the program is expected to grow another 8 percent for fiscal year 2009.

Melmer’s staff outlined three major proposed changes to current Birth to Three rules. Under the existing rules, Birth to Three providers are reimbursed at a rate of $18 per 15-minute service unit for physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy. Under the proposed new rules, providers are reimbursed for services at the same rate as Medicaid, which varies depending on the type of service performed.

The second change allows providers to bill for their travel at 90 percent of their service rate. Previously, providers billed for travel time at 60 percent of their service rate.

The final change revises the eligibility guidelines for Birth to Three. Under the proposal, children who are born at 28 weeks or less are now eligible for the program. Two existing eligibility criteria are removed: a six-month delay in development and performing at 25 percent below age range. However, youngsters that demonstrate either of these two characteristics can still get into the program with a qualified medical opinion.

Board members voted to accept all of the proposed changes.