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DHHS to close 3 offices, affects special needs toddlers

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GREENVILLE, N.C. -
Budget cuts at the Department of Health and Human Services affects a program aimed at helping at-risk babies and toddlers. In a note to employees, DHHS announced it would close 3 offices in New Bern, Rocky Mount and Wilmington. 

The changes will affect 21 eastern counties: Bladen, Brunswick, Carteret, Columbus, Craven, Cumberland, Duplin, Edgecombe, Halifax, Johnston, Jones, Lenoir, Nash, New Hanover, Northampton, Onslow, Pamlico, Pender, Robeson, Sampson and Wilson counties. Many in the community now worry this will cause kids to fall through the cracks. 

The North Carolina Early Intervention Branch (NCEI) is a part of the N.C. Division of Public Health. It is the lead agency for the N.C. Infant-Toddler Program (ITP). The Infant-Toddler Program provides supports and services through the Child Developmental Service Agency (CDSA). More than 20,000 infants and toddlers were served last year. 

The agency has 16 offices across the state and after this move, it will drop to 13. DHHS says the state is shifting the case load from these three offices to Greenville. The state says an expanded contract with East Carolina University’s School of Medicine will pick up the slack.

Officials say the plan will provide a seamless transition. In a memorandum, Dr. Robin Cummings says 173 jobs will be eliminated by July, but says once the contract with ECU is expanded, 150 new jobs will be created. 

DHHS says the expansion will provide opportunities for employment for impacted CDSA staff.  Staff may also look to other CDSAs in the state for opportunities.  www.beearly.nc.gov has a list of all the CDSAs in the state.
     
DHHS blames the closures on state budget cuts. They say the program experienced multiple reductions over the last several years and will see a $10 million cut in 2014-2015.

In a statement DHHS says, "The department is working closely with East Carolina University to ensure that quality services to families and children continue without interruption and to provide opportunities for employment to CDSA staff."

DHHS tells 9 On Your Side employees will be located across the east to make home visits and conduct evaluations. But at this time, there's no word if parents outside of Greenville will have to make the trek to ECU.
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