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Tennesseans with disabilities will see infusion of $400 million in funds

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Posted at 5:18 PM, Nov 02, 2021

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — TennCare and the Tennessee Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities announced Tuesday a plan to invest up to $400 million of federal COVID-19 relief funds.

The funds — made available through the American Rescue Plan — will provide home and community-based services for older adults and individuals with disabilities across Tennessee, allowing them to live safely in their homes, support family caregivers, and live their lives as independently as possible within their communities.

"Through this historic investment, Tennesseans with disabilities will have greater opportunities to live independently, participate in the workforce and reach their fullest potential,” Gov. Bill Lee said. “It’s my hope that this enhanced support will shine a light on the important services that caregivers provide and change the lives of Tennesseans across our state."

TennCare’s federally-approved plan — developed in partnership with the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities — is based on broad stakeholder input and focuses on two primary objectives. The first revolves around increasing access to home and community-based services for those in need while the second will work on strengthening the frontline workforce that delivers services to those enrolled in home and community based programs.

"This infusion of funding represents the single largest investment in home and community-based services in the state’s history,” said Stephen Smith, TennCare Director. "It is an opportunity made possible by the TennCare III demonstration approved in January of this year, since the availability of shared savings and additional federal funding via the waiver will help ensure continued state support of these important investments once the federal funding has expired."

This plan accomplishes two priorities established by Governor Lee and the Tennessee General Assembly prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. That means the plan provides services to 2,000 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, clearing the TennCare Employment and Community First CHOICES program waiting list by more than half. It also translates into investments in recruitment training and retention of frontline support staff to better serve Tennesseans with disabilities.

"Serving more people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to reach their employment, community engagement, and independence goals has been a top priority for both DIDD and TennCare since day one,” DIDD Commissioner Brad Turner said. "This is an investment that will change lives, provide relief to family caregivers and direct support staff, and further our vision of supporting people to live the lives they envision for themselves."