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The Memphis Center for Independent Living Journal


DAY TWENTY-SIX: Bredesen’s Pledge to Vent Users is Hollow.

Tennessee governor will cut services to people who use ventilators.

Phil Bredesen(NASHVILLE, July 15, 2005) Governor Bredesen’s pledge that ventilator users would not be institutionalized is more propaganda from the Tennessee chief executive. In the state press release yesterday, Tennessee Department of Human Services (DHS) announced that vent users would lose their in-home private duty nursing service at the end of this year.

“Changing the end of private duty nursing to December is totally going against his [Phil Bredesen’s] word,” said Randy Alexander who was in the June 21, 2005 meeting when Bredesen promised not to institutionalize vent users. “We were all under the under the impression that there would be a permanent change to his plan and Dave Cooley [Deputy to the Governor] said they were trying to save private duty nursing services, not extending it a few months. This is another example of Bredesen’s style of spinning a situation. He says one thing in public and does something different on paper.”

Vent users were to lose this vital service on August 1, 2005. The governor’s plan has simply postponed that date four months and the reason given is that the administration needs more time to write the policy. DHS is currently sending out nearly two thousand notices a day terminating Tennesseans healthcare and do not have the time to change state regulations on private duty nursing.

“This policy change was made recently,” said J.D. Hickey, the director of TennCare, “and there is simply not enough time to make the needed modification prior to the planned August 1 implementation date so we have elected to postpone the change until January1.” 

Private Duty Nursing (PDN) services are required in Tennessee to assist ventilator users with breathing equipment. Currently, the Tennessee nursing home industry does not accept long-term vent users so about 100 to 200 people are receiving services in their own homes. Often Tennessee citizens are shipped out of state to nursing homes that accept vent users. 

“I care about them, I’m not cutting their services,” said Bredesen last month, “I’m going to provide their services in a nursing home.” 

Randy Alexander speaks with Phil BredesenBredesen’s proposal is illegal discrimination. The governor’s pledge on June 21, not to institutionalize vent users, was deceptive.

The 1990 American with Disabilities Act grants people with disabilities the right to live and work in American society. The ADA defines institutionalization as a unique form of discrimination that is faced by people with disabilities. Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen violates that Civil Rights law by forcing people from their own homes and into institutions.

Rumors yesterday had advocates treating the news of not cutting PDN as a victory, but when the actual press release appeared in the afternoon, it was clear that Bredesen had betrayed the citizens again. Advocates were skeptical on June 21, when Bredesen verbally told protestors in his office that vent users would not be institutionalized. 

“People who call to show their support are very articulate and outraged,” said Stan Davidson the volunteer manning the phone before the building opened this morning. “I remind everyone who calls to talk to their senators, representatives and governors. Everyone must say that this is unacceptable in this nation, if it can happen in Tennessee today, it can happen anywhere.”

- Tim Wheat

MCIL Journal Index 2005

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