TEAM Center closes despite parents and lawmakers hard work
CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- A local facility that's helped thousands of people with developmental disabilities has closed.
The team center serves 2,700 families with autistic children. it's the only organization of its kind in this area.
Earlier this year, the state decided to cut funding the center depends on to operate.
Since then, parents and local lawmakers have been fighting to keep the center open. Even though time has run out they are not giving up.
"We never would have anticipated that they would decline three quarters of a million dollars," says April Eidson.
Eidson and Sandy Lusk led the grass roots effort to save team centers. They launched a facebook campaign and caught lawmakers' attention.
Their persistence prompted the local delegation, led by Andy Berke in the Tennessee Senate and Joanne Favors in the House, to demand the state find funding for team. The state caved and restored the team center's grant.
"We thought it was over. And we didn't know they were going to say no to the money," says Eidson.
Eidson and Lusk asked TEAM Centers Executive Director Peter Charman how they could help save TEAM. They say he told them to lobby lawmakers. They succeeded.
"TEAM, or Charman, or the board of directors has not thanked us. It went eerily silent," says Lusk.
These moms want answers.
"Everybody was on the same side. They wanted TEAM to succeed. The families, the legislators, the media. .... What gives?" says Lusk.
They've made multiple requests to see TEAM Centers' budget and other financial records. They say they're being stonewalled by team attorneys. Charman is no longer taking their calls.
"He doesn't have any interest, that we've seen, to keep it afloat," says Eidson. "It's almost like, he wants it to fail."
They say they'll find an attorney if they have to, whatever it takes, they're determined to see TEAM's legacy live on.
"We want to see it preserved. It's important for our kids. It's important for the kids coming up that everybody get the proper diagnosis," says Lusk.