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TN Budget Cuts Become a Sore Spot, Literally

March 5, 2008

Knoxville, TN – Bed sores, lost jobs and a risk to public safety -- a coalition of advocacy groups say that's been the result of cost-cutting at the Tennessee Department of Mental Retardation Services, and they're holding meetings this week, including one tonight, to hear from those impacted by the budget cuts.

Behavior analyst Lori Wigginton works with people with mental disabilities in Middle Tennessee. She says every one of her clients has been affected, and she says the decisions appear to be made without any sensitivity.

"The people making these decisions don't work with the mentally disabled. Those cutting the budget have never seen them, never laid eyes on them, while giving directives to deny services, period."

Wigginton says clients are being ordered to get roommates, even in cases where the person is unpredictably violent or sexually aggressive. The DMRS director says the cuts have to be made to bring the budget into line, and people can appeal when services are cut or eliminated, a process that takes about 30 days.

Wigginton says Tennesseans with mental retardation cannot deal with that kind of red tape.

"They're forcing the individuals to file appeals. Most of them don't understand that process and we're having to file the appeals for them."

Several advocacy groups are hosting the public forums, including the ARC of Tennessee, People First of Tennessee, Tennessee Disability Coalition, Middle Tennessee Advocacy Center, and the Disability Law and Advocacy Center.

Deborah Smith/Eric Mack, Public News Service - TN