The Department of Community Health’s program, Children 1st, screens all newborns and children up to age 5 to identify those who are at risk for poor health and developmental outcomes. The program then links families to appropriate services. The Governor’s budget, which seems to propose cutting Children 1st funds to the tune of $2.9 million means that it would be harder for the State to identify at-risk children early, significantly lessening the chance that those kids will grow up healthy and ready for school. The loss of these dollars could also increase the demand and cost of special services by delaying treatment from a time when it would be most effective.

Now, technically, we are not sure that the funding is to be officially axed, but the fact that the Governor’s budget did not allocate a specific program line to Children 1st seems to indicate that those funds for the program are on the chopping block. We hope this is not the case, because such a cut to infant and young child health screenings would most definitely lower school readiness and healthy outcomes for kids, as well as raise assessment and treatment costs.