published Thursday, July 21st, 2011

Grant meant for continuing mental health program instead being used to shut it down

by Chris Carroll
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.
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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    Copy of assistant commissioner for community services at the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Debbie Payne's memo.

The executive director of a mental health treatment center in Chattanooga is planning to use a $193,000 state grant to shut down the center's primary therapeutic program rather than finance it for three more months, records show.

TEAM Centers Inc. interim Executive Director Peter Charman said he'll use the grant to stop admitting patients, lay off 22 employees and shut down the diagnostic and evaluation program effective Aug. 15. The grant -- which was meant to continue the program, not stop it -- expires at the end of September.

Charman said the shutdown is expensive and "has to occur sometime."

State officials are baffled.

"I don't recall him at all saying this money would be used to close the program down," said Debbie Payne, assistant commissioner for community services at the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, who helped Charman apply for the grant. "When I was presenting alternative revenue resources, I thought it would help them sustain their program."

Records show state officials gave the money to finance therapy and evaluation for residents suffering from mental disabilities, autism, cerebral palsy and other disorders.

For many years, the state annually gave the nonprofit TEAM a $774,000 grant to fund the center's clinical psychology and speech therapy services, among others. An internal memo dated July 13 shows Payne notified Charman about the state's decision to discontinue the grant in a cost-cutting move.

"I also told Peter Charman ... that we would issue a new grant for a 3-month period with amounts of 3/12ths of the annual cost," Payne wrote. "This will allow him to notify employees and seek new revenue sources."

The Chattanooga Times Free Press obtained a copy of Payne's memo Tuesday night.

Charman confirmed the document's details Wednesday, but he claimed state officials knew he would spend the money for shutdown costs and provided an email he sent to Payne on June 27.

"We've not received any communication from the State and will be forced to close the [clinical care] program without the support of this long-standing grant," he wrote.

The email contains no language about needing money to shut down the program.

"If they're a not-for-profit, there's several different ways to raise revenue," Payne said.

TEAM Centers Inc. gets about $2.2 million in other state contracts, she added, and has the option of applying for jointly funded federal and state programs.

In the most recent fiscal year, which ended June 30, about 2,700 Tennessee patients received treatment at the Chattanooga TEAM center, Charman said.

Five employees, including him, will keep their jobs at the Chattanooga office after Aug. 15, focusing on statewide program management rather than clinical care.

As for TEAM's patients, Charman recommended contacting their primary care providers or pediatricians "for other options."

"We had to look at the greater health of the entire organization to be able to go forward," he said.

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tonysgirl22 said...

I can't believe that this is happening. Yes I can...this is America where the poor get dirt and the rich get richer. I am so heart broken tonight for these persons with developmental/physical disabilities. My heart goes out to them as well as their parents. We try so hard to do right by our children and things like this happen!!

July 21, 2011 at 1:13 a.m.
holly98 said...

its a shame to let this happen to the kids, unbelieveable lebron sucks. Health of kids should be number 1 priority.

July 21, 2011 at 3:02 a.m.
riverstronghold said...

Every day nearly i see your ads posted as comments in my local newspaper.

PLEASE stop this.

The Tennessee Department of Revenue has the option to investigate and prosecute sales tax avoidance by internet companies with both civil and criminal penalties.

I invite you respectfully to please do your business in more appropriate ways.

Thank you.

July 21, 2011 at 6:11 a.m.
riverstronghold said...

This story adds the flavor of State funds not being used for purposes they were awarded for, inviting inquiry as to how it is that monies intended to continue the program may be used to end it.

Add to that the wonderment that a "leader" can straight faced declare that it should take nearly $200,000.00 to send 17 layoff notices, shut the door on a file room, and tell the receptionist to instruct callers "we don't do that anymore -- have a nice day."

Seems that seeking other revenue sources and continuing services as long as possible is what a real leader would be talking about and doing. Seems that's what a State would insist on if you want our money, too. Otherwise here's 18 sheets of paper and an ink cartridge -- you have a nice day too.

Another interesting perspective on all this might be obtained from the board of this organization -- it would be interesting to know who they are and how they are working to support this vital mission, and their perspective on the director they appointed and his decisions to date.

July 21, 2011 at 6:22 a.m.
328Kwebsite said...

So this real estate is right across the street from Erlanger. How valuable. We'll continue to watch this story to determine how the Metro Payoff Club of Coppinger, Littlefield, Kinsey and Corker plan to misuse their office to make money off of this land.

July 21, 2011 at 7:55 a.m.
hcirehttae said...

"...this is America where the poor get dirt and the rich get richer."

Could we get the person who posts the ads in comments every day to just post the sentence above instead? This one statement sums up my commentary on most of the news stories I see.

July 21, 2011 at 8:13 a.m.
sandyonsignal said...

I'm not understanding this. If TEAM receives $2.2 million in grants and funds, and they lost a $772,000 grant, why does this warrant shutting down and laying everyone off? This is the last thing that needs to be done. There has to be a solution other than closing down completely.

July 21, 2011 at 3:38 p.m.
Selah said...

Vote beginning 2012 or continue to deal with the govt. majority fallout, locally and federally.

July 21, 2011 at 4:34 p.m.
sandyonsignal said...

Just found an answer to my question. This story is misleading and not reported accurately. The 2.2 million represents several contracts in other places such as Knoxville, Nashville and here. This $750,000 grant has been in place for decades and funds the services and payroll for TEAM.

I'm saddened by this story. TEAM is are only place for help around here. The State will be hearing from the special needs community soon enough. TDIDD is an inept and worthless organization. We signed our son up for services with them years ago, no body has contacted us in years. They have changed caseworkers and we never were notified. Bunch of liars they are.

July 21, 2011 at 9:31 p.m.
mthompson332 said...

There's nothing misleading about the story. It says "Team Centers Inc. gets about 2.2 million in other state contracts." You're right, it's spread out among offices in other cities. But that's not prominent in the story for a reason.

Here's the point: State money meant for continuation is being used to shut a good program down. That's bad. Article doesn't explicitly say that, but it gets the point across.

July 21, 2011 at 11:47 p.m.
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