Thousands of Chattanooga children losing TEAM services - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Thousands of Chattanooga children losing TEAM services due to state cuts

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CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Chattanooga's TEAM Center is set to close next month and the news has taken hundreds of families by surprise.

For years, TEAM has offered multi-discipline treatment, services and support for people of all ages living with developmental disabilities.

But this year, the state of Tennessee refused to renew an annual grant and now those families are facing a two hour drive to Knoxville for services.

In response, those families are fighting to save TEAM and to find answers. They want to know why the state thinks it's okay to suddenly stop funding such critical treatment for thousands in Southeast Tennessee.

Crystal Brown says her autistic son, Blake, suffered with severe developmental delays when he started as a client at TEAM.

 Four years later, the 8 year old has come out of his shell. He's learned his ABCs and can count. Even more amazing, says his step-dad, Blake can ride a dirt bike on his own. The Browns credit TEAM with the positive changes they've seen in Blake's progress.

The Browns don't know what they'll do without TEAM. They're among the hundreds of families affected by the state's decision to cut funding.

"I think the people making these decisions don't understand what parents have to do," says April Eidson. She helped start a Facebook page, hoping to raise enough attention to keep TEAM open.

The news did catch the attention of Melody Gaston, owner of Chattanooga's Center for Pediatric Therapy. She says she was shocked.

"I kind of put myself in the position of the parents with regards to if I had a special needs child, what would I do, where would I go?" asks Gaston.

That prompted Gaston to hire five of the TEAM center's employees.

Still, parents say there's no substitute for the TEAM approach, having your child's doctors and therapists in the same office and on the same page.

Sandy Lusk explains it this way: "You have a whole group that is sitting around with the same plan and they are working it together for your child to get proper treatment."

The $774,000 state grant TEAM requested would have served 2,700.

Without TEAM, parents will have to drive to the East Tennessee Resource Center in Knoxville, which will get $4 million to serve 290 clients.

That works out to nearly $13,000 per patient, while the TEAM center's multi-discipline approach costs taxpayers just $287 per client, per year. That makes no sense to Dave Burn, a volunteer at the Chattanooga Autism Center.

"They have a larger staff and serve a tenth of the people," says Burn.

Parents say the benefits far out-weigh the cost of keeping TEAM open, now, and in the long run.

Brian Brown says TEAM will give his step-son an edge up in becoming self-sufficient.

"Without TEAM, the problem is you're gonna have a lot of people who are gonna be on disability and things like that, that aren't gonna be able to be self-sufficient," says Brown.

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