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Judge Backs Decision In 'Early Steps' Program


An administrative law judge this week backed a state Department of Health decision to change contractors for the Early Steps program in part of South Florida, rejecting a protest from a children's hospital that has long overseen the program.

Judge Robert Kilbride issued a 41-page recommended order Tuesday that supported the department's decision to award the contract to Benchmark Human Services.

The Early Steps program provides early-intervention services for families who have infants or toddlers with developmental disabilities or other developmental issues.

Nicklaus Children's Hospital, which has long served as the “lead” agency for the program in a region that includes part of Miami-Dade County and Monroe County, filed a protest to the decision to shift the contract to Benchmark. The challenge raised numerous objections, but Kilbride rejected the arguments.

“NCH (Nicklaus Children's Hospital) has not proven that the scoring of the NCH and Benchmark proposals, by any of the evaluators, was clearly erroneous, contrary to competition, arbitrary, or capricious,” he wrote.