While I have had my differences with Bill Lusk on town policies and issues, I have always respected his dedication to his son, who suffers with autism. He has an OpEd in the Times Free Press yesterday, July 29th which I feel is quite pertinent and I wanted to share it with my readers. I tried to post a link, but was unable so have taken the liberty of copying the article to my blog. Please read it.
TEAM too critical to lose
TEAM is a place of caring specialists who serve children and adults and their families. TEAM cannot be duplicated.
After 47 years, Tennessee’s Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD) has decided to withdraw grant funding for TEAM Center. This shocking surprise was immediately followed by news that TEAM would close its outpatient clinic. All this comes as a terrible blow to families trying to cope with developmental disabilities such as autism.
Unfortunately, many facts and important details have not been reported. After a concerted effort by many of the families affected by TEAM’s closing, we discovered that most of our lawmakers were unaware of the elimination of TEAM’s grant, because it was not mentioned in DIDD’s budget. Had DIDD’s budget report indicated this important grant would be eliminated, the public would have received notice, and I believe many of our legislators would have tried to prevent such an action. I trust that our legislative delegation is now working to rectify the problem.
TEAM Center provides unique services in this area. The clinic at TEAM specializes in evaluation, diagnostics, and treatment for people of all ages and incomes with developmental disabilities. Each member of the staff at TEAM is a highly trained disability specialist. One is a nationally recognized neuro-developmental pediatrician and professor at Emory University. Their knowledge make TEAM a valuable resource for our region and many families drive hours to receive treatment.
The cost to provide services for the developmentally disabled is significant because these conditions are lifelong and often accompanied by other disorders. Caring for a person with a developmental disability is a family experience. Whether for diagnosis or treatment, work by the family, patient and his/her clinician will far exceed typical insurance reimbursement and is much more time consuming.
TEAM provides highly trained staff within a flexible environment that is responsive to patients’ needs. The clinicians, the tools, and the environment are different based on the individual’s needs, and many of the ancillary services provided are not reimbursable. This is especially true of TennCare which reimburses about 30 cents on the dollar.TEAM’s clinic is extremely efficient while providing positive outcomes for its patients. The following data highlights the impact that the state grant has vis-à-vis other services provided by DIDD: that TEAM’s services were easily obtained via TennCare or the Department of Education. This contradicts DIDD’s own assessment. In the 2011-2012 budget, the other three Resource Centers with a total budget of $13,852,800 are being built because, as DIDD states: “The resource center serving persons with intellectual disabilities in East Tennessee will provide access to a variety of medical and health-related services that are difficult to obtain in the community due to the lack of available and willing providers. (Emphasis added.) These services will enable persons enrolled in the Medicaid waiver programs to successfully reside in community-based settings of their choice.” But what about those in our area who cannot travel to Greeneville or patients who are not enrolled in Medicaid waiver programs? What will happen to them? My family, for example, struggled through years of uncertainty, misdirection and misdiagnosis by the school system’s psychologists and other providers. That delay in receiving an accurate diagnosis may cost our son dearly in his years ahead because early intervention is paramount. It was not until we discovered TEAM that our son was properly diagnosed and an appropriate course of treatment was developed. TEAM’s staff is world class, and there is no duplication of services in our area as claimed by DIDD, and certainly not under one roof. TEAM is a place of caring specialists who serve children and adults and their families. TEAM cannot be duplicated. Accordingly, it should retain the $286.67 in state funding per patient necessary to maintain the program and provide our region with an invaluable level of services for the least among us. Bill Lusk is a resident of Signal Mountain, where he serves as mayor, and is the father of a child with autism.