TennCare is now targeting children with mental health problems, hoping to cover less of their medical bills. TennCare thinks bad parents and bad doctors are costing the state too much money. I can’t tell anyone else’s story but I can tell mine.
As an infant Tommy only slept in the battery swing or while I rocked him. People told me he was just colicky. Tommy was a human cyclone as a toddler. Never still, never quiet, never satisfied. He was 3 before he spoke at all. By this point I was complaining to anyone who would listen that something was wrong with Tommy. I was referred to multiple parenting classes by the pediatrician. Classes that told me to lock him in his room whenever he was upset and out of control. Classes that told me to count to three and then give consequence. Class after expensive class saying that I wasn’t parenting him correctly. Family, friends and strangers all had advice but nobody wanted to do anything but criticize. At four I enrolled him in a preschool desperately hoping for three hours twice a week of calm. The third day I went to pick him up they said “Don’t ever bring him back. There’s something wrong with him.” I had him evaluated by the local public school system. They put him in their speech therapy program and told me to get an appointment with someone who would give him Ritalin. I went to a psychiatrist who told me after several weeks of extensive, time consuming and expensive appointments that Tommy was Autistic and would never read or function like other children. He looked at my infant daughter and said “You may want to consider finding a group home that can help him.”
I cried a million tears that night but I never went back to that doctor. I could accept that my child was different but nobody would tell me what he couldn’t do. I found a new doctor and we started trying medications. In Kindergarten he was put immediately in a “we dunno” class with the other children who didn’t fit anywhere. The teacher’s aide told me that “We just babysit the children who can’t be taught." I volunteered for the PTA until I just couldn’t stand listening to another parent complain about the money wasted on “those kids”. Tommy never made it into a regular classroom until 7th grade. In the meantime he went entire years without a single textbook or academic lesson. When he did get lessons it was worksheets which he hates. Tommy has been in and out of nearly every hospital in this state. He’s been diagnosed with Autism, Schizophrenia, Bipolar, ADHD, Tourette's, OCD, ODD, Depression and finally Asperger's. We have the right diagnosis and he has doctors who care. It is frightening to think of someone so intelligent, loving and wonderful not being a participant in life. Tommy deserves the best and nobody is sure how to help him find his way. We have daily interactions with teachers and bus drivers. Tommy is driven to weekly psychologist and therapy appointments and monthly psychiatrist appointments. It is time-consuming and expensive but we would do anything to help Tommy. TennCare wants to make this process more difficult.