Federal oversight ends over how Tennessee cares for intellectually disabled

Federal oversight ends over how Tennessee cares for intellectually disabled

September 8th, 2017 by Andy Sher in Breaking News

NASHVILLE - Gov. Bill Haslam today announced the end of years of federal oversight over how the state cares for its intellectually disabled citizens.

It effectively ends a 25-year-old lawsuit known as "Clover Botton," named after the Clover Bottom Developmental Center, said Haslam and Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Commissioner Debra K. Payne.

U.S. District Chief Judge Waverly D. Crenshaw, Jr. dismissed the case and entered an order  saying he found the state had complied with all conditions of the court-approved plan to improve services and quality of life for citizens with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

The state in May closed the last of its developmental centers, having spent tens of millions of dollars to shift services from massive institutions to home and community-based care settings for thousands of Tennessee's most vulnerable citizens.

"We have fundamentally changed the way we serve some of our most vulnerable citizens in Tennessee," Haslam said in a news release. "I'm grateful for the tireless work of so many people to get to this point and ultimately improve the lives of thousands of Tennesseans with intellectual and developmental disabilities."

State officials say that as a result of the litigation, it now has nationally recognized "quality assurance and protection from harm programs" that support people with intellectual disabilities. In fact, the administration says, Tennessee's programs have become a national model.

People First of Tennessee filed the lawsuit in 1995. Alarmed federal officials later filed its own case over dismal conditions at the state's three developmental centers: Clover Bottom Developmental Center in Nashville; Greene Valley Developmental Center in Greeneville; and Nat T. Winston Developmental Center in Bolivar.

Both cases were consolidated.

Crenshaw dismissed part of case in 2016. And just this May, the state acted on the last remaining item in the case by closing the Greene Valley Developmental Center in East Tennessee.

A separate lawsuit over Arlington Developmental Center in West Tennessee was dismissed in 2013. 

"By every measure possible, the transformation has been a remarkable success," said People First of Tennessee's attorney Judith Gran said in a statement. "Tennessee has one of the best community services in the nation, providing services and support in a rich array of programs."

Commissioner Payne said in a statement that parties in the ligitation "recognize that Tennessee is providing high quality supports in the community and no longer needs court oversight.

 "The path to this day has not been an easy one, and could not have been accomplished without long hours, hard work, dedication and a deep passion for the people we support shown by the employees of DIDD," Payne said.

 Case dismissal was agreed to by all parties, including plaintiffs who represents hundreds of hundreds of Tennesseans with intellectual disabilities who at one time lived in one of the state institutions, as well as two parent guardian associations. 

In January 2015, the parties agreed to a plan to exit the suit in which DIDD and TennCare agreed to complete nine sections of requirements. Those provisions included:

    * Developing training for law enforcement officers who may come into contact with persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities;
    * Authoring training for licensed physicians, caregivers and families to improve outcomes of medical care for people with disabilities;
    * Revising individual support plans;
    * Establishing behavioral respite homes in East and Middle Tennessee; and
    * Closing Greene Valley Developmental Center.   

 DIDD provides administration and oversight of community-based services for approximately 8,000 Tennesseans with intellectual disabilities, as well as 4,000 individuals through the Family Support Program.

Tennessee became the first and only state service delivery system in the nation to receive Person-Centered Excellence Accreditation from the Council on Quality and Leadership, state officials say.