HACKENSACK, N.J. – The Bergen County Board of Chosen Freeholders on Wednesday approved a resolution to apply for and accept nearly $1.5 million in state grant money that will be used to fund early intervention services for young children with developmental disabilities, according to a statement.
The grant, which totals $1,480,493, is from the New Jersey Department of Health, according to the statement, which adds that it will be used to aid children ages 0-3.
According to officials, the grant has risen dramatically in recent years (from $1.2 million in 2014), in part because of an increasing caseload that risen from 1,132 active cases in 2014 to over 1,300 today.
Officials said the increase is also due in part to increased technology needs, noting that the grant money is funding upgrades as the state moves toward a “more centralized coordination across the state as well as mobile technology that will eventually allow coordinators to immediately input data from the field.”
“Early Intervention is so important, not only for the 1 in 41 children born in New Jersey being diagnosed with autism, but for all children who experience other developmental disabilities or delays,” said Freeholder Vice Chairwoman Tracy Zur, who serves on the Human Services Committee. “We know that the earlier we can help these kids, the better the outcomes. I’m glad that Bergen County continues to receive increased funding from the state to help us deal with the ever increasing numbers of cases.”
The grant is administered by the Bergen County Department of Human Services’ office of Special Child Health Services, which uses the funding to serve as service coordinators for the New Jersey Early Intervention System, according to the statement.
The Special Child Health Services service coordination unit is the single point of contact for families in Bergen County, according to the statement, which added that service coordinators arrange, coordinate and monitor a continuum of services for children and families of children ages 0-3 with developmental delays or disabilities.
Children are evaluated for eligibility on several different criteria, and the office then works with families to develop assessments and individualized plans that enable several comprehensive community partner agencies to ensure delivery of service, according to the statement.
Service coordinators also work with the 70 Bergen County school districts to facilitate a smooth transition for these children into preschool.
“We recognize that no one agency can tackle these issues alone and our early intervention service coordinators do incredible work bringing all these agencies together,” said Freeholder Joan Voss, who chairs the Human Services Committee. “This is something that more and more of our families deal with and I’m proud that Bergen County is on the forefront of making sure our kids get the best start in life as possible.”
Referrals to early intervention can come from doctors and medical professionals, the New Jersey Department of Children and Families, child care and social service agencies or self-referrals from parents.
Families who are interested in learning more about Early Intervention Services are urged to call the State’s hotline at 1-888-653-4463. The office can also be found online .