ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Tuesday, Feb. 7, parents, educators, specialists and advocates from communities across the state will travel to Albany to fight for funding for early intervention services.

Early intervention is federally mandated support where children have a right to get access to services within 30 days; however, some families are waiting upwards of 12 months to get connected. Early intervention services provide support for infants and toddlers with developmental delays and disabilities, such as speech, physical and occupational therapists.

“Their developmental milestones are expanding so much in this crucial age range, from 0 – 3, and I just feel like he’s just losing out. And we just feel kind of stuck as parents, too, because we know other people are in the same boat and — a lot of people — we’ve tried, you know, different ways to ask for services, but there’s just not enough service providers in early intervention,” says Lynn Mordenga, sitting alongside her husband Mike.

The Mordengas son Timothy is now 2 years old. When they checked in with their doctor around this time last year, they say they went in thinking it would be a straightforward process.

“But we found out that the wait list, or what they call as the overcapacity list, was super long, and we just were not ready that he would be waiting so long for services. He did get a physical therapist, but that was after six months and we’re still waiting for him to get a speech therapist, and it’s been now closer to a year,” Lynn explained.

And the backlog continues to pile-up, even now impacting getting access to an evaluation.

“We also have some children who are experiencing long wait times to receive evaluations or can’t receive evaluations, so then they can’t even be told yes or no you need these services to then be able to get them. So that’s another issue we’re seeing as well,” explains Brittany Read, Advocacy Coordinator at The Children’s Agenda in Rochester.

The reimbursement rate for providers is set by the state, and counties distribute those funds to partnering agencies and private providers. Families like the Mordengas will travel to Albany on Tuesday to ask for at least an 11% increase in that reimbursement rate, which is something advocates say has not been addressed for two decades.

“Eleven percent is what we’re asking for at the very least, and we recognize that it might not be enough for some providers, but that’s a great start,” Read said.

Last fall, nearly 100 organizations across New York penned a letter to Gov. Kathy Hochul calling for that 11% increase in the reimbursement rate for providers.