Approve Initial Evaluations in Early Intervention via Live Video Visits

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Due to COVID-19, On March 16, 2020, home visits were suspended in Early Intervention along with initial evaluations for new children who may qualify for a variety of services including speech, physical, occupational, developmental therapies, and social work. At this time initial evaluations are still suspended in Illinois Early Intervention, denying access to therapy services for children from birth to three across IL.

On April 6, 2020, Telehealth was approved by Provider Connections to provide therapy for children in EI with their parents or guardians in the form of Live Video Visits. It is possible to provide initial evaluations in this same format, but Provider Connections/ Illinois Early Intervention has not allowed it to begin over a month later. With the exception of children who have an auto qualifying diagnosis, it has been almost two months since new children have been allowed into the Early Intervention program.

Early Intervention programs operate under part C of IDEA, yet IL is one of the few states that has not approved initial evaluations. Instead the children of IL and providers who service them have been put on hold without explanation. Covid-19 has forced providers to adapt to a new way of therapy, and they have risen to the challenge of servicing children and families via teleconferencing technology. Therapists are ready to take on the challenge of performing initial evaluations via Telehealth in Illinois so that qualifying children may begin services. The leadership in Early Intervention/Provider Connections has not yet provided providers with the approval and guidance necessary to proceed.

Also in the midst of COVID-19 where many financial struggles may be present, providers who depend on their income have not been able to earn income providing evaluations for almost two months. There are also significantly reduced caseloads as children turn three and age out of the program, new children are not coming in to bring caseloads to the normal amount. With reduced income, Providers are struggling to apply for unemployment, loans and grants, and would prefer to be able to service children with special needs in Illinois instead.

Please help us to encourage the leaders in the State of Illinois including Governor Pritzker IDHS, and Provider Connections to preserve children’s rights to access therapy services and allow Early Intervention Providers to provide initial evaluations via Live Video Visits.