NEW ORLEANS - As Louisiana lawmakers wrestle with deep spending cuts proposed by the state house, the Jindal Administration is warning if the cuts are not reversed, some vital state services may fall victim to the budget ax.
One such program provides early intervention for children with developmental delays or disabilities.
Jada Bellaire from Chalmette is one of 9,000 children currently enrolled in the state's Early Steps program.
The 19-month old has Down's Syndrome.
"She learned how to sit up through Early Steps," said her mother Casie Bellaire. "She learned how to crawl properly. She learned how to speak through Early Steps. She learned how to sign through Early Steps. She's picking up some baby sign language."
The program caters to children up to three years old.
Bellaire says she can't imagine where her daughter would be right now without the services provided by Early Steps.
"From learning to point to waving to blowing kisses, to saying mama. She said mama through her therapist."
Monday, Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Bruce Greenstein told a Senate committee, Early Steps would be eliminated if $270 million in the House-mandated cuts stand.
"I appreciate belt tightening and reducing budgets," said Greenstein. "We're at a point where we have to be very careful that we're not eliminating critical services and we're not really hurting the health of people that are vulnerable citizens."
Michelle Higgins, the New Orleans area Director of Children's Services says keeping Early Steps will save the state money in the long run.
"It's been proven through research, time and time again that early intervention saves money in supports and services for these children as they grow older.
Parents fear Early Steps may be an easy cut because if you don't need the service, you don't really know it's there.
"I understand that they do have a budget," said Bellaire. "But, I wish they could see how much it has helped Jada."
The state budget bill is now before the Senate Finance Committee which can vote to restore some or all of the House-approved cuts.