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Supporters of the First Steps program were at the capitol Wednesday to urge the governor and lawmakers to fund this program, which provides services to infants and young children with disabilities. KSMU's Missy Shelton reports.
Mothers and young children gathered outside the office of Governor Matt Blunt to urge Blunt to support funding the First Steps program.
Blunt's budget proposal eliminates virtually all funding for the program that provides care to infants and young children with disabilities.
The group presented the governor's staff with a petition containing more than 28 thousand signatures.
Melinda Terary's youngest child has autism and has been in First Steps.
She describes what it was like to hear Blunt's proposal to reduce funding for the program.
At a press conference Wednesday, Governor Matt Blunt pointed out that anyone, regardless of income or other resources qualifies for assistance under the First Steps program.
And Blunt says he supports creating a new program, one that relies less on state funding and more on insurance companies.
But parents of disabled children say often insurance companies won't pay for the services their children need.
Michelle Neeley has two autistic daughters.
During a House committee hearing on First Steps funding, Julie Dominique expressed similar concerns about relying on insurance companies for coverage.
Speaking to a committee room packed with parents and their disabled children, she said her son has cerebral palsy.
She says she and her family were lucky because her son was diagnosed relatively quickly'She says other families don't have a diagnosis for months or even years.
But Governor Matt Blunt says some insurance companies do provide some coverage.
And he says the state should identify cases where insurance could take over'He says that would save the state money.
Blunt's budget proposal, which includes cuts to First Steps is before the House Education Appropriations Committee.