TEAM Center set to close in two weeks, clients call it "unacceptable" for Chattanooga
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- Chattanooga's TEAM Center is set to close next month, leaving 2,700 families asking why the state can't find the money to keep funding it.
Parents who are asking the question tell us the answer they're getting is unacceptable.
The state Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD) could not tell Channel 3 how the $774,000 pulled from TEAM will be used. And department spokeswoman Missy Marshall acknowledged the TEAM program "is a wonderful model" but says the state just cannot afford to pay for it.
Parents who have seen the benefits say the state can't afford NOT to fund it.
"I was told by his preschool that he would not make it in public school," says Trish Cox, who has a 12 year old son with Asperger's syndrome.
Cox says the first few years of school were rough for Caelan. But treatment from TEAM made a drastic change in the course of his life.
Caelan explained that without TEAM, "I would still be crying a lot and be afraid and wouldn't have very many (sic) friends."
"Without the TEAM Center he would still be the child underneath the table in the fetal position that I picked up in preschool," says Cox.
Instead, Caelan is a bright, well-adjusted child who welcomes challenges the way a 12 year old boy should. In fact, at TEAM he earned a new nickname: Caelan "I love a challenge!" Cox.
Cox says TEAM saved her son from a life of dependency and that also means a savings for taxpayers.
Caelan doesn't need a personal aide to attend school and he's in a regular classroom, instead of special education, functioning at the same level as other children in his class.
Even though Caelan is the patient, Cox says others benefit from the treatment he receives.
"Not only has TEAM Center educated me, and helped him grow as an individual, but they have been a constant source of information and education for his teachers," says Cox.
Now, Caelan is far enough along that Cox say they can make it without TEAM. But she sees no reason to reinvent the wheel because it would take years to emulate the TEAM approach. That's why she's fighting to keep the program going for future children.
"Children that aren't even born yet, that will need those services will be in a line, on a waiting list," says Cox.