State To Shut Down Program For Severely Disabled - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

State To Shut Down Program For Severely Disabled

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by Chris Conte

MANCHESTER, Tenn. - If the state of Tennessee has its way, a program meant to help people with severe disabilities in Coffee County will be shut down by October 15.

"This is where my heart is; this is what I want to do," said Joyce Harris who manages the agency titled 'Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep Inc.'

Joyce doesn't just manage the organization, but her daughter, Jessica Harris is also one of the program's primary patients. The 33-year-old was born with Cerebral Palsy and needs help walking, eating and communicating.

"She's not sleeping; she's not eating; she's crying a lot because of all this," Joyce added.

Last month, Joyce received a letter from the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental disabilities informing her that her contract had been terminated because of what they call "convenience."

"We are appealing to Governor Haslam to intervene, to step in here and keep this from happening because it is abusive to our clients," Joyce noted.

Over the last 33 years, Joyce has hired caregivers and nurses to staff homes that help people with severe disabilities like her daughter Jessica. Those nurses and caregivers are then paid by TennCare. Aside from hiring, Joyce is also responsible for making sure patients are receiving the correct kind of care.

"It's just, it's very frightening as a mom," she added.

Under the proposal, Joyce's daughter, Jessica, would have to be moved out of her home and into a care facility somewhere else in the state. Jessica Harris, though, isn't the only one the program's closure will affect.

"We need help because this is really messed up; this is wrong," explained Gloria Bush whose son, Randy Bush, suffers from Cerebellar Ataxia.

"These are human beings; they do have a right to say where they want to go and what they want to do," Gloria said, while holding back tears.

Joyce Harris doesn't believe there are any other programs in Manchester that could help people like her daughter or Randy Bush. Her biggest concern is they would have to be moved into new environments they wouldn't be comfortable in.

The mayor of Manchester and State Representative Judd Matheny have gotten involved in an attempt to help reverse the state's decision.

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