published Wednesday, July 20th, 2011

Tennessee mental health cuts shutter Chattanooga treatment program

by Chris Carroll
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    The TEAM Centers Inc. is a private nonprofit organization with an office at 1000 Third St. in Chattanooga that handles evaluation and assessment of people with developmental disabilities.
    Photo by Alex Washburn.
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Thousands of developmentally disabled Tennesseans must fend for themselves starting Aug. 12, when a local treatment center will stop admitting patients after losing a crucial state grant that funded clinical care for decades.

Chattanooga's TEAM Centers Inc. office has notified 22 employees -- including three clinical psychologists, two social workers and a developmental pediatrician -- they will be laid off effective Aug. 15, according to two people close to the situation.

The shutdown is a byproduct of state lawmakers' budget cuts, which will leave those who suffer from mental disabilities, autism and cerebral palsy without a formerly reliable option, a TEAM executive said.

"That's the unfortunate part of this whole thing," said Interim Executive Director Peter Charman, who will keep his job at the nonprofit. "This population has always had difficulty getting services."

Disabled residents from across the state were referred to TEAM for speech, occupational and physical therapy, along with medical evaluations and treatment "from Ph.D.-level psychologists," he said.

As part of a wider swath of mental health cuts, state officials decided last week that TEAM would not receive a $774,000 diagnostic and evaluation grant, which fully reimbursed two outpatient clinics in Chattanooga and Memphis.

"This is a top-to-bottom review," said Missy Marshall, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. "Why are we doing this? How long have we been doing this? Is it something we need to be doing? ... We found out it was a duplication of services."

In the most recent fiscal year, which ended June 30, about 2,700 Tennessee patients received treatment in Chattanooga, Charman said. The Memphis office -- with three staffers, much smaller than the Chattanooga extension -- is closing for good, officials said.

Chattanooga's TEAM Office will remain open, but its five remaining staffers will focus on statewide program management rather than clinical care.

Marshall said children and adults can seek clinical mental health services through the Department of Education and TennCare, among other state programs.

Asked about severance packages for the laid-off employees, Charman said, "We're working on it."

Charman said his staff has told patients to contact their primary care providers or pediatricians "for other options."

"As our clinicians get situated in other places, we'll make that available to the people on our website and here at the office," Charman said.

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inquiringmind said...

"This is a top-to-bottom review," said Missy Marshall, a spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. "Why are we doing this? How long have we been doing this? Is it something we need to be doing? ... We found out it was a duplication of services."

One of the reasons we have a significant homeless population is states deiding to dump their "intellectually disabled" and mentally disabled patients out onto the street. If there is duplication, is it easier or harder to get care if this center is closed? Do patients have to travel from Chatanooga area to say, Nashville? or Knoxville?

July 20, 2011 at 7:58 a.m.
riverstronghold said...

For less than $200 savings per patient, we are sacrificing our most vulnerable - our developmentally disabled, autistic, and cerebral palsied children and adults - and especially their families.

2,700 local families will struggle harder even to figure out what they can try to do for their children and sisters, without any knowledgeable guidance. And on the bald excuse of duplication of services -- when we all know better.

With the financial and management and caseload challenges in Tennessee education and TennCare, it insults our intelligence to be told that people can seek help there. You can seek calamari in a cowpile too, but you're not real likely to see seafood. What a barbaric, backwards, and embarrassing approach to being a people.

Not to mention another 22 American families without jobs. Additional jobs depended on those families being able to pay for things they can't buy anymore -- like food, shelter, medicine, and utilities. This is not state economic and community development at its best. To be expected to sit back and accept this is gallingly disappointing.

The experiments we're doing on people with disabilities and their families are to see how much suffering they can handle with no help. It's not as if these programs were paying any of the ungodly high financial costs of these overwhelming challenges -- merely helping people learn how to cope.

This is exactly the kind of critical service government is for and for which we pay taxes. Partnering with small, agile, non-governmental expert organizations to provide specialized and necessary services is smart administration. But now our elected people and electorate have abdicated responsibilities of society -- and our duties as citizens. What religious culture says abandon the weakest among us? Somebodies' Satan must be dancing a drunken jig in hell at our adoption of his ideals and acceptance of his advocacy for some of our saddest souls. How sad for us and our children.

When we've got individual campaign funds as much larger than this so called "savings" as we do, and this is the outcome of those campaigns, something is seriously skewed in the system. Little wonder young people don't believe in or participate in elections or government or democracy -- what we used to call civil society. But that's ok -- they aren't that much in play anyway, in some respects, and going away quickly by many accounts. The civil part's lost another good spot of shine with this inspired move by our leadership, and the society part is pretty shaky in spots as well. If the Chinese were to tell us we can't do these things for the least among us we would cry war -- but when we do it we don't even cry. Wow. Praying folks are so blessed to have so much to pray about. One nation, under God. Way under. We can do better than this, folks. Really.

July 20, 2011 at 8:10 a.m.
mountainlaurel said...

Indeed, as those who who suffer from mental disabilities, autism and cerebral palsy are left without a formerly reliable option by the politicians, Tennessee’s dominant political party focuses on what really matters in life – THEMSELVES:

"Special interests and lobbying firms with business before the General Assembly shelled out tens of thousands of dollars this spring at a Tennessee Republican Party fundraiser benefiting state GOP lawmakers despite a ban on in-session fundraising, records show."


July 20, 2011 at 9:32 a.m.
harrystatel said...

It's not just a republican issue. It's democrats and republicans.

What's the difference between buffalo crap and cow crap? None-—they both stink!

July 20, 2011 at 9:41 a.m.
tam1967 said...

As the parent of a child with special needs (cerebral palsy), I will be forever greatfull for our family decision many years ago to leave the state of Tennessee and relocate in Georgia. Although they are dealing with the same budget issues as Tennessee, Georgia seems to have preserved many of the programs that serve those most in need. This story is a sad reminder that our nation's system of safety nets continue to fail.

July 20, 2011 at 9:51 a.m.
nowfedup said...

It has been honestly and ethically stated a nation and it's people are judged by how they treat their least fortunate. So TN, aren't you proud of self and TN, and the "now sales tax collections in TN and huge tax breaks the upper end gave Amazon and will give to others. So let the least fortunate among us suffer more, as it "improves the bottom line" This is even worse then "no budget to spray for West Nile bugs". What a aorry nation we have ALL become,, greed rules, money shouts the rules, from local to top. Yep "least you be judged" won't you be proud?

July 20, 2011 at 10:37 a.m.
jphillips said...

TEAM provided specialty services in community setting so people with intellectual and developmental disabilities could live at home with their families. So what could be the real reason for cutting funding to such a successful program? Maybe because the administration has a different idea about where and how people should live-read "Budget cuts to limit care for disabled patients" in the Times Free Press on 6/18/2011.

July 20, 2011 at 12:52 p.m.
sandyonsignal said...

I am stunned and saddened about the closing of TEAM Centers. As a parent of a child with a brain malformation and autism, we have all benefited from TEAM's help and direction. Before we found TEAM, we went from doctor to doctor looking for help. The school system which gives the diagnosis of autism, was even a worse hell than one can imagine. There is no duplication of services with TEAM and the school system. One cares about their clients, the other cares about administrator's jobs.
With Team, we found the help for our son in his quality of life and ours. Dr. Rubin suggested hippo-therapy or therapeutic horse back riding as a way for our son to participate in some sport. What a difference a horse made in bringing him joy and helping him communicate. Dr. Rubin has also told us we needed a communication device and to get an assistive technology evaluation to know which one. That was four years ago, the school still hasn't done one because they don't want to provide it. We finally bought him an I pad and he is moving through leaps and bounds in communication because of private therapy. This is expensive, but we are running out of time. We can't wait on the school system, they're just babysitting him until they can kick him out of the system. HCDE knows parents of special needs are already overwhelmed and to exhausted to fight with them. So they just wear parents out by biding time and lying to them. We were told in April, our son's class would have an I-pad. Guess what? Still no I pad and he goes year round. He is non-verbal and considered severely autistic. If he doesn't need a communications device, then who does?

I heard from a friend that all the special ed administrators were given I pads last year. This isn't fair. They already have a voice. So, I don't put much faith in the State or the School system.

Our area will suffer without TEAM. Austim is rising at an exponential rate. If you don't know of a child with autism, you will soon enough. Help is badly needed. The experts at TEAM help throughout their life. As many have pointed out, they are taking from the least of us. The Bible said: “The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.' ... It did not say, take from them, and give tax cuts to the corporations and the rich. No, it didn't say that. There is a special place in hell for these legislators and the TIDS.

July 20, 2011 at 4:57 p.m.
ladybugvm said...

We have been on the waiting list to get into TEAM for months because my nonverbal autistic child has started having tantrums. We have been to the pediatrician, the emergency room, called psychologists and developmental pediatricians and ALL of them refered us to TEAM center. Not one place offered us any assistance. School is out for the summer so there are no services from the school and this is not even something the school would deal with. We have tenncare and private insurance and other than school we get no services. This was really our last hope and now its gone?!

July 20, 2011 at 5:46 p.m.
328Kwebsite said...

Does Prebul own this building? We're shutting down the AIM center, which is in one of his old Jeep dealerships, right as he gets out of prison, if he's not out already.

How does the Metro Payoff Club of Coppinger, Littlefield, Kinsey and Corker financially profit from shutting down this place?

All they've done since they appointed themselves to Metro government last November has been to pay themselves and their friends $125,000 at a time. Who's getting paid from this?

July 20, 2011 at 6:49 p.m.
ceeweed said...

Prisons and jails are our psychiatric hospitals. Welfare nursing homes are our warehouses for the developmentally disabled. How far will we slip as a nation in providing for our own who cannot provide for themselves? Will we declare the helpless to be useless drains on our society? We are moving the wrong direction along that path.

July 20, 2011 at 9:15 p.m.
sandyonsignal said...

We are going to fight this. We, parents, are not going to sit idly by and lose our only wide range facility for developmental disabilities in our area. Dr. Rubin is an expert in autism. He comes once a week up here from Atlanta before he was in Atlanta, he was in Boston at the Children's Hospital. TEAM provides everything from testing to therapies on how to deal with this.

As Lady Bug wrote above, this was her best hope for her son. Her child's tantrums are a direct result from not being able to talk. Behavior is a form of communication and she needs help with how to get him to communicate in a reciprocal manner. The school system should be providing year round school to him and helping him communicate. In theory, they should: in reality, the don't.

I hope Lady Bug will join us in fighting against the state on this horrible decision. This goes beyond the pale.

July 21, 2011 at 7:24 a.m.
tscox said...

Children do not deserve to be put on waiting lists. They deserve all the help that adults in their community can give them. Commissioner Henry it denying these kids the very help that his community has fought 20 years to build up for them.

August 1, 2011 at 10:14 p.m.
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