(WSVN) - They are some of the most fragile children in South Florida, and now they’re suddenly being thrown out of specialized day cares funded by taxpayers. The state’s decision is sending parents into a panic during the holiday season. 7’s Brian Entin searches for the answers in tonight’s 7News investigation.
This mom has spent her son Julio’s entire life fighting to get him what he needs.
Ruth Olmos: “It is not easy when you sit there as a parent so many times and say, ‘I almost lost him.'”
Julio was born with fluid in his brain. He’s unable to speak, and even though he is 9 years old, he functions as a 3-year-old.
At this young age, Julio has already had 32 surgeries.
Ruth Olmos: “There is a point he was in the hospital, in the intensive care unit, for about seven months. And I literally moved in with him.”
His mom Ruth says he can have life-threatening seizures at any time.
Ruth Olmos: “If he was in a regular school or regular program, I would be freaked out. They aren’t used to running oxygen and doing CPR.”
So, for seven years, Julio has been going to what is called a PPEC, or Prescribed Pediatric Extended Care. It’s like a daycare, but for children with medical issues, and is paid for through Medicaid.
But in November, a letter came to the family’s Sunrise home. It said, because Julio has had no “recent hospitalizations” and “no seizures in the last six months,” he is no longer eligible for the taxpayer-funded program, and the family’s request for services “is deemed not medically necessary.”
Julio isn’t the only child being denied.
Janet Horn, administrator, PPEC Miami: “There has been a drastic change in the approval numbers starting in October.”
Janet Horn runs a PPEC in both Broward and Miami-Dade counties. She says several families received the same news. They are now panicking — having to find adequate alternative care.
Janet Horn: “Not only detrimental to their health, but their parents are going to lose their jobs. Now we are going to tell parents, who are regular parents, you need to learn to be a nurse now because we are taking away your nursing care. What I learned in six years, we’re going to teach you in six minutes.”
The question is, why are the children suddenly being denied?
Miami attorney Matthew Dietz is trying to get an answer to that question on behalf of the families … by taking the state to court.
Matthew Dietz, disability rights attorney: “These parents that came to me, all came in at the same time over the holidays to say, ‘We are going to lose our care.'”
Dietz says he was told there have not been any changes to the state’s policies when it comes to which children qualify for the program.
Matthew Dietz: “This has been typical for the state of Florida to cut costs on the back of very sick children with disabilities. And it is just unfair.”
Unfair, he says, to children like Julio, whose mom vows not to give up.
Ruth Olmos: “I am the person who needs to fight for my son. I will not let them act like my child is just a number.”
7News contacted the State Agency for Health Care Administration to find out what has changed in the past several months. A state spokesperson tells us they won’t comment because of the current court case.
Luckily, for Julio his medical daycare is letting him stay — at no cost — while his mom fights the state along with the other families.
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