published Sunday, July 24th, 2011

TEAM results may take time


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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THE STORY SO FAR

The Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities declined to fully fund a diagnostic and evaluation program at TEAM Centers Inc., a Chattanooga nonprofit that treats mentally disabled patients.

The state offered funding through September, but TEAM's executive director decided to use the money to shut down the agency's clinical care on Aug. 15. State officials say they don't understand why the program is being closed and may look into it.


RESOURCES

• Tennessee Department of Education: 615-741-2731

• Tennessee Early Intervention System: 423-624-6344

• Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities: 423-634-6149

• TennCare: 1-800-342-3145

The state has answers for the families surprised by the closing of Chattanooga's primary therapeutic program for intellectually and developmentally disabled Tennesseans:

Go to the Department of Education if you're a child and apply for TennCare if you're an adult.

The obvious question: Are those state agencies prepared to handle thousands of new cases when money and resources are tight?

Yes, they say, but not without delay.

On July 13, the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities declined to fully fund a $774,000 diagnostic and evaluation program at TEAM Centers Inc., a Chattanooga nonprofit that treats mentally disabled residents. The reduction of the grant was part of a statewide budget cuts.

The TEAM program shuts down Aug. 15, officials have said.

For parents with young children -- from birth through age 2 -- the Tennessee Early Intervention System might be an option. Run through the Department of Education, the system educates parents and refers them to appropriate providers and vendors, said Amanda Morris, a department spokeswoman.

But nearly 800 babies and toddlers are on the waiting list to be verified for whatever developmental disorder they may have, she said, and there is no definitive time for processing.

"That varies by the child in terms of how long that process would take going forward," Morris said.

The number of children diagnosed with autism has ballooned in recent years. An average of one in 110 American children has the disorder, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As for developmentally disabled adults, TennCare spokeswoman Kelly Gunderson said the agency would send letters to its enrollees, telling them the TEAM Centers Inc. program is shutting down.

"This is not unusual in our world," she said. "Providers come in and out of our network all the time. We will help find another provider."

Gunderson did not know how many residents would be affected or when the agency would begin sending notifications. She said adults could pre-empt the process by calling TennCare to explore provider options.

Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities spokeswoman Missy Marshall said state officials would do "whatever we can" to help fill the gaps.

"Whatever we can do to get them information as to what providers are out there, we're going to do that," Marshall said.

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sjoneshayes said...

I am VERY concerned that the Team Center is scheduled to close August 12. I am a mother of a child with ASD, so my concern is probably expected.
However, this closure effects every tax payer in Tennessee. You see, my husband and I have been working with The Team Center for the last 10 years to make sure than my son grows up to be a tax payer, NOT a tax receiver. No easy thing since currently, less than 2% of people diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder will be able to live without supports, even the most capable. However, because of his treatments at TEAM, he has a real chance of being an independent adult with continued evaluations, treatments and very carefully followed recommendations.
My son is one of MANY who have the same chance.

The Tennessee Department of Intellectual Disabilities has cut the wrong place in the budget, plain and simple. Spending money on early diagnosis and treatment is NEVER a mistake, it is the key to saving money into the adult life of a person with a disability and in many cases not even needing to spend money on the child who becomes an adult.

In the scheme of a 1,800,000,000 cut, frankly, this $774,000 is an investment that Tennesseans can not afford NOT to make. The Team Center serves 2,700 people EVERY year with this funding. This works out to be $286.66 per year per person served per year. This money will be easily spent PER DAY for EACH of the 2,700 people who do not become independent. If only a few of these children actually achieve independence....well....let me not continue to state the obvious.

Yes there are doctors around....I was told by various doctors at different times that my son was deaf, had mental retardation, had a speech problem, had ADHD, had behavior problems....all before his 3rd birthday. The talented experts that the Team Center has been able to attract to the Chattanooga area AND keep is phenomenal! No one rushed to a diagnosis. Several people saw him on several different days over a span of a few months THEN came up with a correct diagnosis and better yet, a treatment plan that is WORKING!

My request is simple. The withdrawal of the Team Center's funding needs to be reversed.

Respectfully,

July 27, 2011 at 6:57 p.m.
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