The Best Therapy Service Provider Saves You More Than Money
In 2015, a special education director contacted Pediatric Therapeutic Services (PTS), more than ready for a change.
The program’s therapy service provider had been serving the mid-sized Berks County School District for a decade. The provider had a low hourly rate, but consistently billed the district for an excessive number of hours.
To make matters worse, the current therapy team was fragmented and dysfunctional. Getting rid of this turmoil, in fact, was the director’s main reason for seeking us out.
When we arrived in the district, we saw the telltale signs the district had been using a provider who didn’t know how to manage a therapy program efficiently or effectively.
For example, the provider had placed up to five Occupational Therapists (OTs) in one building. This arrangement led to a lack of accountability as well as out-of-control caseloads and levels of related services.
Students’ IEP goals weren’t being updated. Students stayed on caseload whether or not they were making progress. And a “revolving door” for therapists meant building staff weren’t getting any steady support.
Fortunately, the administration was engaged, supportive, and open to a new approach.
Reducing Referrals, Training Teachers, and Cultivating Trust
Making sure the right kids get on and off therapists’ rolls is key to getting a program’s budget under control. Our first step as the district’s new therapy service provider was collaborating with administrators to reassess existing caseloads and create a solid referral process.
We discovered many referrals could have been avoided had building staff possessed tools and tactics for addressing several common issues themselves. Our Clinical Director provided badly needed training for teachers and paraprofessionals.
When in-class strategies weren’t sufficient to help students, we provided short-term Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) interventions. These strategies kept dozens more students off the Occupational Therapy caseload.
We reduced the number of therapists per building to one OT, one Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant (COTA®), and one Physical Therapist (PT). This change established a culture of stability and accountability.
Having a dedicated therapy program team in each school building transformed teachers’ relationships with therapists. It created an environment of trust and respect. When students had issues, teachers now knew who to contact. They no longer had to “fight” to get help in a reasonable, responsible timeframe.
Most significantly, we used data from our proprietary, award-winning BudgetWatchTM platform to identify opportunities for improving efficiency. Data showed the OT was traveling back and forth to the same schools multiple times a day, for instance. We worked with staff at each site to streamline the therapist’s schedule.
While Therapy Caseloads and Costs Fell, Satisfaction Rose
The teacher trainings PTS conducted enabled teachers to handle many of students’ common functional issues, driving referrals down. And when a therapist recommended a student be discharged from services, teachers knew the therapist would still be there if they or their students needed additional support. As a result, the number of students with related services dropped year after year.
Clinical Director Jen Cave (OTR/L) met regularly with therapists and used BudgetWatchTM data to streamline schedules and support using a small group treatment model whenever appropriate.
We didn’t cut related services. We applied them in a more proactive and better managed way. And with caseloads and referrals under control, costs began to come down.
In year two, we implemented additional teacher trainings, revised service levels, and an even more robust MTSS approach. Students had access to pre-referral interventions, and teachers had access to resources and strategies they could use without involving therapists. Costs fell even further, while teachers’ and families’ satisfaction rose!
Excellent Therapists and Strong Supports Tailored to Your Program
By bringing in PTS as its therapy service provider, the Berks County School District made its chaotic and costly related services program effective and cost-efficient.
Here’s what the district’s Assistant Director of Special Education has to say:
PTS has provided our district with a level of support we appreciate. They provide us with excellent therapists. They have provided us short-term help while the district worked through the internal hiring process.
The best supports, in my opinion, have been the training opportunities the Clinical Director has designed based on our individual needs. These trainings have supported our paraprofessional staff in a variety of topics including self-help, fine motor coordination, handwriting, and sensory profiles.
How can PTS stabilize and strengthen your program?
To find out, call us at 610-941-7020, or contact us online today.