Tag Archives: disabled

State lags in moving disabled out of closing institution

Greene Valley Developmental Center, the last state-run institution for adults with disabilities, is scheduled to close in just four months, but 58 residents still call the facility home and state Rep. David Hawk, R-Greeneville, says it may have to stay open until next summer.

Further from WJHL TV:

“My concern continues to be that we are not going to have all these community homes built and functional by the end of this calendar year which is what DIDD has promised,” Hawk said.

On Friday, the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD) celebrated the first resident to move out of Greene Valley and in to a new care facility in Roane County. But this facility is the only one complete, with 15 left to go across the state. Continue reading

State treasurer offers savings program for the disabled

A new Tennessee program is now available to help people with qualified disabilities and their families or legal representatives save, invest and earn money tax-free to fund allowable expenses such as housing and health needs.

Further from the Times-Free Press:

State Treasurer David Lillard said Tennessee is among the first states to offer an Achieving A Better Life Experience program.

The ABLE Tennessee program, administered through the Tennessee Department of Treasury, is designed to help people with intellectual and physical disabilities save with no impact on federal means-tested benefits so long as the 401k-style investment accounts are less than $100,000.

It is expected to help people and families with problems in areas ranging from Down syndrome to military veterans left physically devastated by war-related injuries.

To qualify, officials said, the disability must have been present before someone’s 26th birthday.

Moreover, individuals must be eligible for either federal Supplemental Security Income or Social Security Disability Insurance benefits based on blindness or disability. Or, they can join by having a qualified physician provide a disability diagnosis.

The accounts can be opened by family members or other legal representatives and accept investment money not just from them but other relatives, including grandparents, and friends, officials say.

“Families are so ready to open these accounts,” Lillard said last week at a news conference rolling out the program, made allowable under recent changes to federal tax law. “The Tennessee Treasury team has put together a very high-quality savings program.”

Disabled vets come up short in legislative ‘sausage-making process’

A state House push to reverse last year’s cuts in aid to disabled military veterans died on the final day of the legislative session last week in the face of Senate opposition, leading to approval of a more modest improvement in the program and multiple promises to seek full restoration of the cuts next year.

“In the sausage-making process we’re engaged in here, something is better than nothing,” said Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, in urging colleagues to vote for the final version of the bill on Friday.

They ultimately did after some convoluted proceedings. The final vote was 58-18, though at one point House members actually voted in favor of continuing the fight, even though that could have meant prolonging the 2016 session.
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Haslam unsure what to do with shuttered developmental center

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam says it’s too soon to tell what the site of the Greene Valley Developmental Center will be used for after the facility closes next year.

The Republican governor told The Greeneville Sun (http://bit.ly/1hEOrfd ) that closing the 450-acre campus in northeastern Tennessee was a “really hard decision,” but that it was ultimately necessary because of high costs. Haslam acknowledged that the loss of nearly 600 jobs will have a large economic impact on the area.

Haslam said he’s committed to try to find ways to bring jobs back to the site. He said either state agencies will locate on the campus, or the site would be marketed to private investors.

The settlement of a federal lawsuit earlier this year calls for Green Valley to close by June.

Bill providing subsidies to parents of disabled children is signed

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Gov. Bill Haslam has signed a bill that overhauls how severely disabled children are educated in Tennessee. The Individualized Education Act will turn over roughly $6,600 in education funds to parents to help their children.

Supporters have hailed it as empowering parents whose children don’t do well in special education programs at public school. Critics say it hands money over to parents with few safeguards.

Traditional vouchers give families whose children attend poor-performing public schools a way to pay for private schools. This law gives parents much more freedom to determine how to spend the money.

Under the law, parents will be able to spend the $6,600 on private school tuition or approved therapies.

Haslam signed the bill on Monday.

Republican Sen. Dolores Gresham of Somerville was the primary sponsor in the Senate.

Note: Press releases below.
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Judge hears objections to closing Greene Valley Developmental Center

In a federal court hearing at Nashville Wednesday, there were impassioned objections to the state’s plan to close Greene Valley Developmental Center from relatives with disabled loved ones still living there, reports The Tennessean.

Four guardians of residents living in Greene Valley have hired an attorney, who on Wednesday asked that the court allow them to intervene in the case.

U.S. District Judge Kevin Sharp said he will rule next week on whether the guardians can legally intervene. He will also rule on whether to approve an “exit plan” from the lawsuit that includes the plan to close Greene Valley as well as institute other changes in the way the state cares for people with intellectual disabilities.

But lawyers for the state told the judge that while his approval is needed to end the long-running court case, the decision to close Greene Valley ultimately lies with the state.

… The plan to close Greene Valley is part of an overall agreement to end nearly 20 years of federal court oversight over two large institutions operated by the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities. A second institution, Clover Bottom Developmental Center in Nashville, is scheduled to close in June.

A federal court has been overseeing the facilities since the Department of Justice first filed suit in 1996 over deplorable conditions inside the state’s institutions for people with intellectual disabilities, defined as possessing an IQ of 70 or less.

The plan to shut down Greene Valley emerged unexpectedly earlier this month, taking many guardians by surprise.

But it comes many years into a national movement to end the practice of caring for people in large asylum-style facilities and integrating them into neighborhood homes. For decades, Tennessee officials have slowly transitioned residents form large institutions into small group homes or four- or eight-person medical facilities.

“This should come as no real surprise to anyone because in many respects that institution has been closing since the 1970s,” said Jonathan Lakey, an attorney for the state.

At its peak, 3,200 people lived in state institutions, but today just 96 remain at Greene Valley and 20 at Clover Bottom. The cost of providing care to so few in institutions built to serve hundreds has become “economically prohibitive,” Lakey said.

Bill to revise distribution of property tax break for elderly, disabled inspires heated House debate

Legislation setting up a new system for providing a state-funded property tax break to the low-income elderly and disabled people – if state funding runs short – has been narrowly approved by the House after heated debate.

The bill sponsored by House Finance Committee Chairman Charles Sargent, R-Franklin, (HB2503) was depicted by critics as a stalking horse for plans to cut the program in the future – a notion Sargent deemed “one of the biggest conspiracy theories I ever heard of” and completely unwarranted.

The state budget for the coming year, as approved by both the House and Senate, provides the funding necessary to cover the next year’s estimated cost of the state-subsidized property tax cuts. The bill establishes a new system for what happens if there is not enough money allocated to cover all those who apply for the relief. Last year, about 140,000 people qualified statewide, though the number is expected to grow.

Under current law, Sargent said, a shortfall in state funding would mean the subsidies would be available on a first-come, first-served basis – provided in full to those who apply while funds are available with nothing provided after the funds run out. The bill says that, in the event that the allocated money does not meet demand, the payments will be proportional.

For example, he said in floor debate, if the average subsidy would be $147 per household – roughly what it is now – and funding allocated in the state budget would not cover that for eveyone who applied, the amount for all applicants would be reduced proportionally – by $5 each in his example. Otherwise, he said the possibility would be raised of one person applying at a county clerk’s office for the tax break seeing his or her payment issued in full while the next in line would be told nothing was available.

Rep. Gary Odom, D-Nashville, said the bill sends “a signal that the intention here is to make cuts in the program” and that, otherwise, it “absolutely makes no sense.”

Other Democrats, joined by some Republicans such as Rep. Bill Sanderson of Kenton, offered similar assessments. Sanderson called the measure “a terrible bill” and a matter of putting “the cart before the horse.” If there is funding for the program in the coming year, he said, there is no need to enact a bill anticipating cutbacks now.

Sargent said the bill was sponsored at the behest of county trustees, who act as administrators of the progam, and was merely aimed at putting in place “the best method for your constituents” should some future cut in state funding occur.

The bill was approved with the bare minimum 50 votes required, with a dozen Republicans among the 38 who voted no. It now goes to the Senate in the last days of the session.

‘Lynn’s Law’ Aims to Punish Those Abandoning the Disabled

Also winning final approval late in the session was “Lynn’s Law,” named after Lynn Cameron, a 19-year-old developmentally disabled Illinois woman who was abandoned by her mother in a Caryville, Tenn., bar last year.
When authorities located the woman’s mother ten days later, they found she had not violated any existing state law and could not be charged. The bill (HB531) creates a law to cover such situations in the future.
Sponsored by Sen. Ken Yager, R-Harriman, and Rep. Dennis Powers, R-Jacksboro, the bill legally defines the “caretaker” of a developmentally disabled person unable to care for himself or herself without assistance.
The bill says a caretaker who willfully abandons his or her responsibility can be punished under a current law against abuse and neglect of the developmentally disabled – a Class E felony, punishable by one to six years in prioson and/or a fine of up to $3,000.

Supremes Reject Belated ”Intellectually Disabled’ Claim From Death Row Inmate

News release from Administrative Office of the Courts:
The Tennessee Supreme Court today upheld the lower courts’ decisions that David Keen, an inmate currently on death row, could not reopen his post-conviction proceeding to assert that he was intellectually disabled.
In 1990, David Keen raped and murdered an eight-year-old girl in Shelby County. He pleaded guilty to both offenses, and in 1991, a jury sentenced him to death. Even though state law at the time prohibited executing intellectually disabled persons, Mr. Keen did not assert that he was intellectually disabled. The Tennessee Supreme Court affirmed Mr. Keen’s conviction in 1994 and affirmed his death sentence in 2000. Mr. Keen later filed an unsuccessful petition for post-conviction relief but again did not assert that he was intellectually disabled.
Nineteen years after his original death sentence, Mr. Keen asserted for the first time that he is intellectually disabled. He insisted that the courts should permit him to reopen his post-conviction proceeding to present new evidence that he was intellectually disabled. Both the Criminal Court for Shelby County and the Tennessee Court of Criminal appeals rejected this claim.

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THDA Spurns Fed Funds for Housing Low-income, Disabled

The state’s housing agency turned down the chance to apply for $12 million in federal rental assistance for people with disabilities — overruling a recommendation by its own staff and by the state’s TennCare Medicaid agency.
More from The Tennessean:
Advocates for the disabled say the funding is desperately needed to address a housing crisis among people with disabilities who want to live independently but who are often forced into homelessness or into institutions, which cost the state more money.
The aid is the only major new source of federal funding available this year for people who are very poor and have physical, mental or developmental disabilities, said Ann O’Hara, associate director for Boston-based Technical Assistance Collaborative Resource Center on Supportive Housing, a consulting firm. O’Hara said her agency has worked with at least 20 other states that have expressed interest in the funding.
The 2010 law creating the new Section 811 rental assistance program was passed with rare bipartisan support, with unanimous votes in both the House and Senate. It requires no upfront state money, but it does require that the state Medicaid agency partner with a housing agency to provide vouchers that people can use to pay their landlords.
Board members of the Tennessee Housing and Development Agency at their July 24 meeting shelved the plan to apply for a piece of the $85 million in funding that just became available, declining to take a vote. The deadline for applications passed on July 31.
A memo from THDA staff members to the board said “staff recommends board approval to submit an application.” TennCare also recommended that the state apply for the maximum state allotment of $12 million, saying the money would pay for TennCare’s efforts to keep people out of nursing homes.
Board member Ralph Perrey said he had philosophical differences with the federal program requiring a 20-year commitment from states but offering only five years of guaranteed funding, with annual congressional approval required afterward.
O’Hara said that all programs subsidized by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development that THDA and other agencies already administer come with similar terms. Programs for the homeless and for seniors and Section 8 rental vouchers operate in the same way, she said.
Executive Director Tim Fellman said he and other board members were concerned that the program capped administrative costs at 5 percent of the federal grant.
That could mean THDA would have to use its own money to cover administrative costs of the program, he said