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.
• 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.