SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - Special day cares that tend to children with medical and special needs are at risk of being eliminated as Louisiana battles it's worst budget crisis in decades.
"It would be heartbreaking to close a school like this down, or any other school like this," said Ebony Small.
Caring Hands Pediatric Day Health Center in Shreveport takes care of 23 children with medical and special needs. KSLA News 12 spoke with one of the mothers of the kids who attends Helping Hands and she told us without this program, her son would spend his life in a bed staring at the wall.
"He moves his legs more, he moves his arms more, and he wasn't doing any of that before he came here," explained Small.
Ebony Small's 4-year-old son, TJ, has been going to Caring Hands for almost two years now. He was born with Miller-Dieker Syndrome, which means his brain is smooth and causes severe intellectual disability and developmental delay, as well as seizures. So, TJ needs constant care.
"Caring Hands gives families a chance to have a life, because we are so always attached to our kids, so Caring Hands gives us a life to a get a job," said Small.
Because of Louisiana's budget crisis, the Department of Health and Hospitals has been asked to look at ways to cut more than $160 million. Already, we know at least $4.2 million will be cut from the Pediatric Day Health Center Program, which would force Caring Hands to close its doors. DHH says the services could be continued by other Medicaid providers or school districts.
"School is not good for TJ. He needs medical attention all hours of the day. He can't learn anything, he can't talk, so what is he going to do at school?" said Small.
"To think he's facing the possibility of not getting any interaction, or getting the therapy he needs. His mom works with him and does, but it's not like having additional staff and therapists come in," said Jackie Broome, a registered nurse at Caring Hands.
"People act like they forget about them because they can't walk or talk or learn like other kids and that's not right. That's not fair that our kids have to suffer because of budget cuts and things of that nature when these are things that are really needed in life for them," said Small.
The 23 children at Caring Hands are taken care of by 16 staff members.
Across the state, the Pediatric Day Health Center Program provides care for more than 600 medically disabled kids. Nearly 100 of those children are cared for in the Shreveport-Bossier area.