Funding provided by the Department of Economic Development for programs of the Tailor Institute inside Southeast Missouri State University's Autism Center is again in question this year.
Around $200,000 that goes to the Tailor Institute through the department's workforce development program was among cuts in a version of the state's annual budget approved by a Senate committee Thursday. The legislature is working toward balancing a $500 million shortfall in the budget projected for next year.
The Tailor Institute works with teens and young adults throughout the autism spectrum who are considered "high functioning" by providing therapies and life enhancement programs offering preparation for entrance into vocational or college settings. "Giftedness," or talents and skills clients have, are identified through assessments and built upon with the institute's programs, said Jenny Knoderer, the institute's executive director of management and funding.
Programs at the institute are also funded through private donations, some small grants and proceeds from an annual fundraiser.
The institute was also at risk of losing its contract with the state at the same time last year during the legislative budget process. That funding did come through, however.
Sen. Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, helped set up the state funding for the Tailor Institute and the autism center, which opened in 2010 and also houses the Thompson Center, which focuses on early interventions, and Touchpoint Autism Services, which provides clinical and home care for clients with autism.
Crowell said he will be looking at ways the state could still fund the institute in the coming weeks during legislative conferences before a final budget is presented for the governor's approval. The funding was never supposed to be permanent anyway, he said.
"It was going to be a temporary program to get the Tailor Institute up and on its feet," Crowell said.
According to Knoderer and the institute's founder, Dr. David Crowe, the institute will continue to provide its programs even without state support.
"It would change the face of our programs a little bit and we would need to make some adjustments, but we are confident we would be able to find the funding that is needed," Knoderer said. She said the state funding has been helpful in doing what it was intended to do, which was get things started for the institution and that it would be good to still have it in the future, but that regardless, no doors will be closing.
Around 20 clients are currently being served with the institute's programs and assessments. The institute does not charge clients for services. The number of assessments the institute is providing has risen about 25 percent from last year.
"We absolutely believe that we will be fine," Knoderer said. "We are confident we will be able to get additional grants and people who have been interested in our program will help and new interest will come along."
Crowe said that in recent years when the legislature reviewed whether the institute should receive funding that members recognized the importance and effect of its programs.
"I understand the issues with the budget," he said, "but I think by the time the powers that be sit down and really take a look at what we are doing, they will see that it has tremendous promise for the future in creating a lot more independence for a lot of people who otherwise wouldn't have it."
611 N. Fountain St., Cape Girardeau, MO