Texas House Speaker Joe Straus said Tuesday he will look to reverse the $350 million in cuts made to therapy for developmentally disabled children when the 2017 legislative session starts in January.
Straus, a Republican from San Antonio, told the Texas Tribune in a sit-down interview the reduction in reimbursement rates to speech, physical and occupational therapists were "well intentioned" but needed to being revisited.
"It did not work, and it will be addressed in the supplemental budget," Straus told Texas Tribune chief executive Evan Smith. "Maybe they were a mistake."
When lawmakers passed the legislation in 2015 it tasked the Department of Health and Human Services Commission with reducing the reimbursement rate to therapists but also not jeopardize developmentally delayed children's access to care.
The cuts take effect December 15 but already the threat of reductions in payments from Medicaid have forced some therapy providers to shut down.
The Texas Tribune reported a therapy center in Tyler serving 300 children closed in October, leaving the nearest location 40 miles away in Longview.
In Dallas County, three non-profit facilities participate in the Early Child Intervention services program administered by the state.
The Warren Center in Richardson serves 760 children, 60-percent of which utilize Medicaid.
Executive director Amy Spawn says the non-profit will absorb the 25-percent reimbursement cut but will not reduce services for its clients ranging in age from birth to three years.
"It puts in a position where we're looking for more grant opportunities to fill the hole left by these cuts," Spawn said.
On Tuesday, 3-year old Montgomery Smith was receiving language development therapy through the use of physical activity with a speech language pathologist. For mom Bria, the therapy hasn't just helped her son.
“It means a lot to know that a therapist can help my child out because I didn’t know anything about autism until it came into my view," Smith said. "Now there are things I've been taught by a therapist I can use at home to help him."
The reduction in reimbursement is slated to begin December 15.