Wednesday, February 24, 2010


DATE: February 23, 2010 CONTACT: Eileen Crane at 615-353-3545 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE EDUCATION/BUSINESS

Nashville State Community College announced today that it has issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a site in Antioch to lease or purchase as a permanent location to serve students in the Antioch area. The RFP envisions a 40,000 square feet facility with classrooms, labs and office space that will accommodate what college officials project will be a 1,200 student campus. NSCC President George Van Allen says the reason is growth. "We require more classrooms and must find the most economical way to develop them. Developing a facility in Antioch has the advantage of lower cost and places us in an area where many of our students call home.

For many students, that will eliminate the inconvenience and expense of cross-town commuting." The college analyzed the zip codes of all its students to determine a location for off campus development to alleviate the space problems experienced on the main campus. Roughly one third of main campus students live in the Antioch area. No other areas approached this volume of students making Antioch the obvious area for expansion. NSCC's fall 2009 enrollment at all locations was over 9,400 students, more than 7,200 of whom attended the main campus in Nashville. The proposed Antioch campus is expected to have a wide range of general education and developmental classes. Nashville State is looking for a site that can be ready as soon as November 1st so students might begin attending with the spring 2011 semester. Proposals will be due on March 22. Details regarding the RFP are available on the college's website at, and in the legal notices of the Tennessean February 24 and February 26 editions.

More information regarding the RFP can also be obtained by contacting Julia Covington at Johnson Johnson Crabtree Architects in Nashville at 615-837-0656.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010




Monday, February 22, 2010

Handgun licenses increase in TN

ASSOCIATED PRESS • February 22, 2010 New state statistics say the number of Tennesseans licensed to carry a handgun increased by 23 percent over the previous year. The Commercial Appeal in Memphis reports that 268,711 people were permitted at the start of 2010, compared with last year's total of 218,004 on Jan. 1, 2009. The numbers come from the state Department of Safety Figures. The new data indicate that about 6 percent of Tennessee residents old enough for a handgun-carry permit had one at the start of 2010. The legal age is 21 and older. Knoxville has the highest concentration of permit-holders among the state's largest cities. More than 11 percent of its residents eligible for permits are licensed to carry firearms

Mayor readies plan to fight Nashville poverty

A plan to reduce Nashville's poverty rate will be presented today by Mayor Karl Dean. The presentation will begin at 10 a.m. in the Board Room at the Metro Action Commission, 1624 Fifth Ave. N. In September 2008, the Poverty Reduction Initiative was started and action committees formed to focus on improving child care, economic opportunities, health care, housing, employment, neighborhoods and food availability for those in poverty. The report will include recommendations in each category. — MITCHELL KLINE THE TENNESSEAN

Bredesen, other governors offer help on health-care compromise

Group says states can reignite talks ASSOCIATED PRESS • February 22, 2010 WASHINGTON — Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen joined other state governors Sunday in offering to strike a health-care compromise between the warring factions in Washington. "We are making an offer to help and are very willing to roll up our sleeves and help if that's what Congress and the president decided," Bredesen said at a news conference on the sidelines at the National Governors Association meeting. The governors' plea was an implicit acknowledgment that President Barack Obama and the Democratic-led Congress have frozen governors out of the process. The White House, meanwhile, readied its last-ditch effort to salvage health-care legislation, while the Senate's Republican leader warned Democrats against the go-it-alone approach. The White House was expected to post a version of Obama's plan for overhauling health care on its Web site today, before his critical summit at Blair House on Thursday. The plan, which was likely to be opposed by the GOP, was expected to require most Americans to carry health insurance coverage, with federal subsidies to help many afford the premiums. Hewing close to a stalled Senate bill, it would bar insurance companies from denying coverage to people with medical problems or charging them more. The expected price tag is around $1 trillion over 10 years. The conference at the White House guest residence is to be televised live on C-SPAN and perhaps on cable news networks. It represents a gamble by the administration that Obama can save his embattled overhaul through persuasion — a risky and unusual step. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Sunday that he would participate but that Obama and congressional Democrats would be wrong to push the bills they wrote in the House and Senate. "The fundamental point I want to make is the arrogance of all of this. You know, they are saying, 'Ignore the wishes of the American people. We know more about this than you do. And we're going to jam it down your throats no matter what.' That is why the public is so angry at this Congress and this administration over this issue," McConnell said on Fox News Sunday Compromise sought While the House and Senate have each passed their own version of a health overhaul, lawmakers have yet to settle their differences and produce a single bill acceptable to both chambers. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, hoped a compromise — "sweet spot," he called it — was possible. "If you really want to serve the people and not just your party, I think you will find that sweet spot and you can get it done," he said. Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania appealed to Republicans to offer their own proposals. "You take some of our ideas. We'll take some of your ideas. We may not love your ideas, but we'll take them. If they don't do that, I think this whole dynamic of this political year could turn around," he said. Schwarzenegger and Rendell appeared on ABC's This Week. Bredesen was among four leaders of the National Governors Association, two Republicans and two Democrats, who offered to work on a health-care compromise. The Blair House meeting takes place nearly a year after Obama launched his drive to remake health care — a Democratic agenda item for decades — at an earlier summit he infused with a bipartisan spirit. The president will point out that Republicans have supported individual elements of the Democratic bills. Under the expected Obama plan, regulators would create a competitive marketplace for small businesses and people buying their own coverage. The plan would be paid for with a mix of Medicare cuts and tax increases. It would also strip out special Medicaid deals for certain states, while moving to close the Medicare prescription coverage gap and making newly available coverage for working families more affordable. The changes would cost about $200 billion over 10 years. It's unclear what the total price tag for the legislation would be; the Senate bill was originally under $900 billion. Options open Over the weekend, Obama suggested that he was willing to move toward Republicans in a couple of areas, including a measure that allows people to buy insurance from a company in another state. He said he might also be willing to support a plan giving small businesses the power to join together and offer health care at lower prices. "I don't want to see this meeting turn into political theater, with each side simply reciting talking points and trying to score political points," Obama said in his weekend radio address. "Instead, I ask members of both parties to seek common ground in an effort to solve a problem that's been with us for generations."

HELP WANTED - For Music City Center Building

To get an application for a job on the Music City Center project, go to, click on “The DBE Program” and then click on “Employment and Contract Opportunities.” You can apply online or print out an application and mail it to the address provided on the Web site. You also can pick up an application at the construction management team’s trailer at Demonbreun Street and Seventh Avenue South

City Center jobs come slowly

Convention hall contractors expect to employ up to 3,000 By Michael Cass • THE TENNESSEAN • February 22, 2010 Work on a new downtown convention center will become much more visible next month, gradually creating thousands of jobs over the next three years, project managers said. Mayor Karl Dean and other supporters sold the $585 million Music City Center project as a stimulus package for Nashville, where the unemployment rate is about 10 percent. They've said the project should create 2,500 to 3,000 jobs, with 800 to 1,000 people on-site at peak times. About 100 people are working on the job already, said Gary Schalmo, project director and senior vice president with Bell/Clark/Harmony, the general contractor. They're working on plans and shop drawings, procurement and other tasks. Excavation work will start around March 1, bringing 20 people or so to the construction site south of Sommet Center and First Baptist Church. An additional 100 workers will start putting up the 1.2-million-square-foot building's concrete frame in April or May. Schalmo said the concrete work would stretch into 2011. About 400 workers should be on-site by the end of this year, with more working behind the scenes. "It won't be a huge work force until we get the frame up," he said. "It'll be a pretty constant ramp-up of about 40 (workers) a month." Metro Councilman Bo Mitchell said he remains concerned that many of the contracts and individual jobs could go to companies and people who don't do business or live here. "I take everyone at their word, but until it happens, I still have that concern," Mitchell said. "The profit is going back to wherever that business is from. I'm looking for those 3,000 jobs to be Nashvillians for the most part or Middle Tennesseans, and for the contracts to be the same way." Schalmo and Larry Atema, Metro's senior project manager, said some of the contracts would have to go to firms that aren't based in Nashville. For example no local company is capable of doing $30 million to $40 million of concrete work on an "intense" schedule, they said. "There will be times when a national firm will need to be relied upon," Atema said. Local workers wanted But out-of-town firms will want to hire mostly local workers so they can avoid housing costs, Atema said, and many will form joint ventures with local companies that can do specific jobs. For instance the electrical subcontractor could hire a local firm to put in all of the electrical cables for the convention center's fire alarms. Atema said the economic downturn also would ensure the availability of local workers. That wasn't always the case when Metro built LP Field in the late 1990s, an economic boom time. "There are enough local workers to get this job built," Atema said. He said it had been "sobering" to see how many out-of-work project managers — people he's known or heard about for years — were applying for jobs on the convention center project. The project team will start sending companies the bid requirements for some contracts today. It will continue that process through June 1 as it looks to bring in qualified firms to install everything from structural steel and plumbing to elevators and bathroom fixtures. All subcontractors should be on board by October, Schalmo said. Bell/Clark/Harmony has guaranteed Metro that construction itself won't cost more than $415 million. The contractor will be on the hook for any overruns. The city has already spent about $20 million on the project and has $150 million in remaining costs beyond construction, such as land acquisition, design and relocation of a Nashville Electric Service substation. Metro is paying for the project with a municipal bond issue. It will pay the debt created by the bond issue with revenues collected from tourists. If the tourist revenues fall short, the city will tap a $130 million-a-year pool of general fund revenues — excluding property and sales taxes — to make up the difference.

Friday, February 19, 2010

United Neighborhood health Services

Hi District 29 Neighbor, Join me in congratulationing United Neighborhood Health Services! You serve Nashville well! Gratefully, Vivian

For Release: February 18, 2010

Contact: Mary Bufwack 615-294-2923 (cell) Email: CEO, United Neighborhood Health Services

One Year Later: United Neighborhood Health Services Cares for 3,000 More Uninsured & Underserved People Thanks to Economic Stimulus Funds

Nashville, TN -- Thanks to funding received as a result of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) enacted one year ago, United Neighborhood Health Services (UNHS) was able to serve 3,000 more uninsured and underserved patients in its clinics located in neighborhoods throughout the city. The “economic stimulus” funds allowed UNHS to recruit additional staff and to offer primary health services through three new clinic sites in low-income neighborhoods, expand existing facilities, and improve care and access through an updated electronic medical records (EMR) system and new central call center. “The economic stimulus investment has made a substantial difference at our health centers and in our community,” said Mary Bufwack, CEO of UNHS. “The economic stimulus funding was the right medicine at the right time and one year later the investment is still delivering results.” Bufwack noted that people who are losing jobs are finding themselves without health care and UNHS is providing primary care to this new group of uninsured people. UNHS grew from 24,000 clients in 2008 to about 27,000 clients in 2009. And with funds for serving the homeless UNHS received, it added another 4,000 patients to those served, growing to over 31,000 patients served in 2009. UNHS is one of the first organizations in Tennessee to receive funds as a result of enactment ARRA, signed into law on February 17, 2009. In March 2009, UNHS received $973,593 from ARRA to support a two-year project to expand primary health services through three new clinic sites in Nashville. One of the clinics is located to serve residents of public housing in the Edgehill Homes. A second clinic is located on Dickerson Road and will serve the 37207 community, an area seriously lacking in primary health care. This clinic will open in March. A second round of funding brought $451,913 to UNHS to expand services. Approximately 15 new jobs were created as a result of funds for expanded services and the new clinics. Then in July 2009, UNHS received an additional $1,053,180 in economic stimulus funding. These funds will be used to renovate its Downtown Clinic that serves the homeless and expand its Main Street Clinic to include a women’s clinic and a teen clinic. These renovations will begin in March.

Funds also support updating UNHS’ electronic medical records (EMR) network. The updated network will help make electronic health records available at all sites, including the mobile medical clinics. Patients will be able to go to any UNHS site for care and the provider there will have access to their electronic records. Funds will also be used to establish a central call center for UNHS so that one number 620-UNHS (620-8647) can be called to make an appointment at any UNHS clinic. United Neighborhood Health Services Cares for 3,000 More People Thanks to Economic Stimulus Funds

Bufwack said, “The economic stimulus funds were very important. However, it is important to remember that this was one time funding. Our state and city continue to face enormous challenges that include proposed budget cuts by TennCare and by Metro.” Nationally uninsured patient visits are up by 21 percent and are likely to continue increasing as the economic recession lingers, according to the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC). To learn more abut how the economic stimulus funding is still making a difference in communities, visit the NACHC economic stimulus map at United Neighborhood Health Services, Inc. (UNHS) is a private non-profit network of neighborhood health centers that have served Nashville for more than 30 years. Through its eight Nashville neighborhood clinics, four school-based clinics, the Downtown Homeless Clinic, the Charlotte Avenue Youth Clinic, two mobile health units, and a clinic in Hartsville, Tennessee, United Neighborhood Health Services annually serves approximately 31,000 medically underserved people of all ages; 16,000 have no health insurance. Visit for information about United Neighborhood Health Services’ other clinics and programs. For Additional Information: Deborah Varallo 615-367-5200, ext. 14 or 615-482-6444 (cell number) Email: Varallo Public Relations

Listing of Prom Dates!

Health-care reform limbo sets stage for wave of hospital mergers

Analysts expect health-reform stall to strain nonprofits By Getahn Ward • THE TENNESSEAN • February 19, 2010 Health-care reform was a pill that many hospital operators were willing to swallow, especially given the promise of insurance coverage for more people that would offset expected cuts in reimbursements. Now, with comprehensive reform in limbo and expectations of piecemeal legislation that would bring more gradual changes, analysts see continued growth in patients who can't afford to pay even as cuts to programs such as Medicare remain possible. "Our fear is we're going to see the cuts without the coverage," said Craig Becker, chief executive of the Tennessee Hospital Association, a trade group. Analysts expect a new wave of mergers and acquisitions in the wake of the collapse of comprehensive health reform, as nonprofit hospitals faced with financial pressures seek alliances with larger hospital chains that are better capitalized. "Providers will continue to be pressed to operate their institutions at lower costs and more efficiently utilizing the best available health-care information technology," said Leigh Walton, an attorney and co-head of the health-care group at Bass Berry & Sims law firm here. "Some of the smaller systems will not have access to the capital to, for example, implement strong health-care IT and... may suffer from basically the inability to run as efficiently as a large system." In recent conference calls with analysts, officials of several Nashville area hospital chains have cited encouraging prospects for mergers and acquisitions. On Thursday, executives of Community Health Systems said a fair amount of activity should continue in the next 18 months as lower investment returns hinder abilities of hospitals, especially not-for-profit players, to fund capital projects. "It's not that their operating results haven't been decent, but they are all continuing to miss those nice investment returns they enjoyed for several years," said Charlie Martin, chief executive of Vanguard Health Systems, during that company's conference call last week. "So their balance sheets are not necessarily in good shape." More competition for acquisitions, however, could drive up prices that had fallen sharply, said Wayne T. Smith, CEO of Franklin-based Community Health, citing its plans for at least two acquisitions this year. "The difference between today and a year ago is buyers have interest in acquisitions and have access to capital," said CRT Capital analyst Sheryl Skolnick. "A year ago, they might have been interested, but the credit markets has just began to open up again." While some CEOs have avoided direct answers to questions on reform, Iasis Healthcare's David White bluntly called the effort a "disjointed, herky-jerky process" and more health-care "deform" than reform. "My suspicion and guess is that they're going to go ahead and implement their cuts that supposedly the health-care industry agreed to, at some point in time in the future," Martin said, referring to $155 billion in cuts the hospital sector pledged as part of reform. Although a comprehensive expansion of coverage in exchange for the cuts isn't likely, considering that the reform push has stalled, experts see incremental reforms in areas such as allowing for sale of policies across state lines and restricting denial of coverage by insurers because of pre-existing conditions. Those along with other potential measures, such as coverage for more children, could help hospitals, but not like expanding coverage to a majority of the 46 million people nationwide without insurance. Rate cuts expected With government's share of the nation's health-care bill is expected to rise to more than half of all spending by 2012, cuts in Medicare rates are inevitable, experts said. If next month's release of the Medicare Trustees Report shows acceleration of the time by which a key fund would run out of money, there could be pressure on Congress to make sharp cuts, said John M. Cousins, an analyst with CIT Group based in Tallahassee, Fla. "We all know that the deficit cannot continue to grow at the way it is, so payment cuts are going to come," said Reggie Hill, a health law attorney and partner in the Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis law firm in Nashville. "It's just the question of when." Hill will be watching to see the outcome of the health-care summit that President Obama plans next week. Many experts said chances are slim for compromise between Republicans and Democrats on differences that have stalled the reform. "It could turn out to be a bust," Hill said about the summit. "On the other hand, it could be some indication there'll be agreement to move forward on some sort of piecemeal reform."

Nashville crime drops with help of citizens' watchful eyes

Chief says citizens' involvement makes Nashville a safer place By Clay Carey • THE TENNESSEAN • February 19, 2010 Nashville, you are being watched — and it's a good thing. The city's crime rate is down and Metro police Chief Ronal Serpas credits neighborhood watch groups for helping make Davidson County neighborhoods safer. During the past five years, neighborhood watch organizations have nearly doubled. There are currently 475 active neighborhood watch groups in Metro. New crime statistics released by the Metro police department show a nearly 11 percent decline in major crimes from 2008 to 2009. It was the sixth consecutive year that the rate dropped. Carrie Fussell, president of Tomorrow's Hope Neighborhood Watch, said officers regularly attend the association's meetings. "That's where we sit down with people and make our priorities," Serpas said. Residents in the community, which stretches from 44th Avenue to 42nd Avenue near Tennessee State University, formed the neighborhood watch to combat drug sales. "That's the biggest problem we had," Fussell said. "Used to be, you couldn't get by on the corner (of 43rd and Albion) for all the people standing on the street. "During the summer, we still see a lot of drug dealing, but not at all like it used to be," she said. "Working with the police department, a lot of that was stopped." The overall crime rate in 2009 — about seven crimes reported for every 100 Nashville residents — was Nashville's lowest since 1978. The per-capita property crime rate was at its lowest since 1972. Rape last year declined 8.5 percent to its lowest level since 1979. Motor vehicle thefts fell by 26.4 percent to the lowest level since 1963. Homicide and burglary rates in Nashville were up last year by 8.1 and 7.1 percent, respectively. Police said the number of murders — 80 — was still lower than it was in 2006, and that there were fewer burglaries in 2009 than there were in 1970. Before 2009, burglary rates had gone down for five consecutive years, Serpas said. "We have a whole lot more people living here, so there are a lot more opportunities," the chief said. Serpas did not think the recession had anything to do with burglary figures. "Probably, if there is any recession-related crime, it might be inter-personal stuff" like fights caused by financial stress, he said. But other cities blamed the failing economy for some of their property crime increases. In Murfreesboro, 2009 saw robbery increase by 10 percent. Burglaries were up by 24 percent. "It's hard to put an exact number on how the economy affects the crime rate, but we do see changes with that," said police spokesman Kyle Evans. Mark Cohen, a professor of economics, ethics and social responsibility at Vanderbilt University, said it is difficult to draw a clear line between the two; other changes in the community can come into play. Some don't feel safe Though every Nashville police precinct showed a decline in the crime rate, North Nashville resident Thomas Williams feels his neighborhood is more dangerous than ever. "I've seen kids walking around with guns in their hands," said Williams, 64. "I guess (the police) are doing the best they can." Serpas said he recognizes there are places where police have not had success. "We still have a lot of challenges," the chief said. Pete Horton, a block commander with the Woodland-In-Waverly neighborhood watch, says a heavy police presence and neighbors willing to call police will help. "If you see something suspicious and call, they will send two patrol cars," Horton said. He says loiterers don't linger in his neighborhood. "They know that somebody's watching," he said.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

TN Board of Regents schools have 524 accept buyouts

Schools are cutting costs By Jennifer Brooks • THE TENNESSEAN • February 17, 2010 Familiar faces are vanishing from universities across Tennessee as longtime professors, administrators and office staff voluntarily leave their posts in the face of looming budget cuts. In all, 524 people have left or will soon be leaving at schools in the Tennessee Board of Regents system in a wave of voluntary buyouts the schools hope will save them millions of dollars in the coming year. For the people involved, it's the end of a career. For the schools, it's the loss of decades of experience and institutional memory. And for the students, it will likely mean larger classes and fewer choices in years to come. "Certainly, I'm going to miss MTSU, but I'm also looking forward to retirement," said advertising professor Edward Applegate, one of 38 professors who accepted the buyout offer and will leave at the end of this semester. Applegate is planning books to write in his free time. "I believe there is life after doing something for 37 years." He will be joined by an exodus of longtime university fixtures, including library dean Don Craig; Randy O'Brien, broadcaster and news director at WMOT, the campus jazz radio station; Tech Wubneh, director of MTSU's international studies program; and octogenarian education professor Bob Womack. The university had hoped to see 45 faculty, 36 administrators and 34 clerical staff take buyouts — a move that would have cut an estimated $18.2 million from the budget. Instead, the bulk came from lower-paid clerical staffers. The university has not yet decided whether it will need to resort to layoffs. Middle Tennessee State University was facing a $19.3 million budget cut from the state when it began drawing up its buyout plan last year. The governor's new budget has them bracing for an additional $5.9 million cut. "The buyouts are just one piece," MTSU Senior Vice President John W. Cothern said. "It's part of a process. And it's a big process." 9 TSU faculty to leave At Tennessee State University, only nine professors accepted the buyout from a target goal of 33. In all, TSU accepted 47 voluntary buyouts of its goal of 100. The staffers left in August, including the university's director of nursing education and director of admissions. Bradley White, assistant vice president for business and finance, said TSU has not yet discussed the possibility of layoffs and is still debating other cutbacks — including eliminating so-called "low-producing" areas of study that fail to attract much student interest. "Hopefully, we will have done enough before the stimulus money runs out" that layoffs won't be necessary, he said. The universities have a year's breathing room, thanks to the federal stimulus that will flow to Tennessee higher education for one more year, and then the state budget cuts will be reinstated. Between now and then, MTSU and other universities in the system face a lot of painful choices — whether to cut more faculty, whether to increase class size, whether to eliminate less popular classes and majors — or all of the above. "The cumulative effect of all this reduction in staffing is probably going to result in larger class sections," said Dale Sims, vice chancellor for business and finance at the Tennessee Board of Regents, who is monitoring the ongoing cuts at MTSU, Tennessee State University and the other schools in the regents system. The governor's latest budget calls for a 6 percent cut in overall higher education spending — possibly as high as 9 percent. APSU relies on growth Not every school is trying to offset the cuts with staff reductions. Fast-growing Austin Peay State University, Sims said, is relying on its increasing student population — and the tuition revenue that comes with all of those extra students — to make job cuts unnecessary. The school also is spending its stimulus grants on energy-efficiency projects around campus designed to reduce maintenance expenses in the future. But, Sims said, "At the end of the day, 75 percent of what (universities) spend money on is people…You can't really get away from that."

Davidson sheriff to use new technology to track registered sex offenders

Tennesssean February 16, 2010 DAVIDSON COUNTY Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall will unveil new technology today that he says will improve the tracking of registered sex offenders. The sheriff's office received a grant for an iris scan machine worth about $10,000 that will be used to check in the sex offenders who come to register at the booking department. The technology can positively identify a person through an eye scan and can even differentiate between twins, the sheriff's office says. The information gathered through the iris scans will be entered into a national database that will help determine if a sex offender is wanted in another jurisdiction. "It is the sheriff's office's responsibility to gather information on sex offenders when they come to register in this county," Hall said in a news release. "Including them in an iris scan database is a great step because you can never be mistaken for someone else and you can share the data electronically with other law enforcement agencies." If the data are useful, Hall said, the department may buy more equipment to better track inmates and ensure the right ones are released from custody. — KATE HOWARD

Metro Nashville Council looks to silence Twitter at meetings

By Michael Cass • THE TENNESSEAN • February 17, 2010 A social networking service that's often credited for creating greater openness may not always be open enough to meet Tennessee's standards for local governments, Metro Council's attorney said Tuesday. Jon Cooper said council members should refrain from using Twitter during meetings to discuss bills under debate or other members' comments. Doing so could violate the state Open Meetings Act, which prohibits deliberations by public officials out of public view and often is interpreted broadly by courts, Cooper said. "If you tweet during a council meeting about what's going on, that could be problematic," he said, using the newly created verb for posting a comment or information on the service, which limits each post to 140 characters. Cooper said he sees no problem, however, with council members giving "play-by-play" of votes after they're over. Only a few council members use Twitter during meetings, but two of them said the decision was misguided. After Erik Cole mentioned the issue on his "district7" Twitter feed Tuesday and announced, "no more tues night tweets," fellow councilman Jamie Hollin replied, "Don't quit now @district7. I think that's a bit overbroad." Cole later wrote back, "Agreed. Overbroad ... or overboard?" Decision draws criticism In a telephone interview, Hollin said he disagreed with the decision and had told Cooper so. "Using Twitter as a tool to communicate principally with your constituents, I don't think that's a violation of the Open Meetings Act," said Hollin, an attorney. "I don't think you can blame a member, with the tools at their disposal, for getting all the information out there that they can." Freddie O'Connell, an Internet entrepreneur and Metro Transit Authority member who often uses Twitter to keep tabs on council meetings, said the decision seemed odd. He noted that council members routinely talk privately to each other and even to citizens during the course of meetings. "It's curious that something that distributes information about what's happening could be construed as a violation of openness," he said. "What's the difference between that and somebody coming off the floor and talking to a citizen?" Guidance for state legislators has been less direct. Connie Ridley, director of the Office of Legislative Administration, said lawmakers are aware of the Open Meetings Act, and "we assume they are acting accordingly." The state attorney general's office hasn't issued any opinions on Twitter use by elected officials, spokeswoman Sharon Curtis-Flair said. Florida's attorney general, Bill McCollum, wrote an opinion last year that said members of city boards and commissions shouldn't discuss issues that could come before them for action on city Facebook pages. McCollum's office told the Naples Daily News that the same tests for determining what is a public record would apply to Twitter or any other medium. Follow Michael Cass' abundant tweeting from Metro Council meetings and elsewhere at Or contact him at 615-259-8838.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Fair Board Meeting Tuesday the 16th reschedule due to weather

We are all concerned about what could happen to the Fair Grounds. The thought of not using the Fairgrounds for flea market events, races and the state fair just to name a few has disheartened many. Oh the other hand, expand the existing use seems to be the agenda of others. If you have not been apart of this tug of war, here is an opportunity to stay involved. A rescheduled February Board Meeting of the Fair Commissioners will meet at 8:00 a.m. Tuesday February 16th in the Administration Office Board Room (Note this is a change from Wilson Hall). They will follow the Metro Schools weather policy and if Metro schools are out on the 16th, the rescheduled Board Meeting will be Wednesday February 24th, at 8:00 a.m. back in the Wilson Hall. Since we now know that Metro schools is closed on Tuesday, February 16, 2010 due to inclement weather, please attend the rescheduled meeting on Wednesday, February 24, 2010 at 8 am back in the Wilson Hall. If you have questions contact Kristi Harris Assistant to the Director - Buck Dozier Tennessee State Fair office (615) 862-8980 cell (615) 337-1874

Monday, February 15, 2010

Convention Center Authority 2010 Committee Meetings

Hi District 29 Neighbors: Below is the 2010 Convention Center Committees, scheduled dates and times. Meetings will be held at the Nashville Convention Center. Room numbers will be announced at a later date. If you are able, attend these meetings to know what is being proposed. Gratefully, Vivian
Meetings will be at the Nashville Convention Center. Room numbers TBD. Finance & Audit: 8:00am
Construction & Development: 8:00am
DBE & Procurement: 9:00am
Marketing & Operations: 9:00am Finance & Audit Mark Arnold Darrell Drumwright Ken Levitan Willie McDonald Diversity Business Enterprise & Procurement Darrell Drumwright Vonda McDaniel Willie McDonald Leo Waters Marketing & Operations Mark Arnold Ken Levitan Luke Simons Mona Lisa Warren Construction & Development Vonda McDaniel Luke Simons Mona Lisa Warren Leo Waters Chair is a member of all committees
Diane Neighbors is Ex-Officio of all committees 2010 Committee Meeting Dates: Monday, February 22 Thursday, March 25 Thursday, April 29 Thursday, May 27 Thursday, June 24 Thursday, July 29 Thursday, August 26 Thursday, September 30 Thursday, October 28 Thursday, November 25 (Thanksgiving Day – Rescheduled date TBD) Thursday, December 30

DC4 drug treatment program may run out of funds

DC4, or Davidson County Drug Court Developing Character During Confinement, is a sentencing alternative for drug addicts By Nicole Young • THE TENNESSEAN • February 15, 2010 A highly successful drug treatment program in Davidson County is in danger of having to close its doors because of a lack of funding. DC4, short for Davidson County Drug Court Developing Character During Confinement, is a sentencing alternative for drug addicts, helping them to overcome their addictions instead of putting them behind bars. It opened 13 years ago, expanding to include a pilot program for methamphetamine users and, later, treatment for mentally ill addicts. More than $600,000 in federal stimulus funds helped the program meet its $1.7 million annual budget last year. But those funds will soon be gone, said program founder Davidson County Criminal Court Judge Seth Norman. "We usually get about $500,000 from the state," he said. "I feel certain that we can get some kind of funding from the state this year, but I'm not certain if it will be that much. With the shortage of funds, there is always the threat of us shutting down." In an effort to stay afloat, Norman is planning a trip to Washington, D.C., next week to drum up support in Congress. If DC4 closed, all of the inmates housed at the 108-bed facility on County Hospital Road would be sent to prison, where there's no drug treatment. Eighty-five inmates call DC4 home, and treatment works. Only 35 percent of inmates fail to complete the program and are sent back to prison. Last year, 58 inmates graduated, and more try to get into the program every day, said Jeri Thomas, director of the facility's nonprofit funding agency. Currently, there is a waiting list of 15. "It's frustrating because I know we have room for everyone," Norman said. "Right now, there are two meth addicts in Bradley County who want to come here, but I can't do that when there's a possibility that we could run out of money in June.

Never too late in life to alter health habits

USA Today By Emily Bregel, Chattanooga Times Free Press CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Three years ago, at age 92, Marjorie Townley of Chattanooga felt resigned, seeing little chance for improvement in her quality of life. At 220 pounds and falling regularly, she was edging closer to needing nursing home care. Her discomfort led her to avoid socializing and remain holed up in her apartment at Creekside at Shallowford retirement home. But the result of a few simple dietary changes recommended by her nutritionist has been staggering to her family and her doctor. Nutritionist and physical therapy assistant James Igani, who manages Summit Physical Therapy's clinic based at Creekside, suggested tweaks such as eating sliced apples and bananas for breakfast instead of cereal, forgoing most desserts and cutting back on salt. Sticking to the changes, Ms. Townley dropped 70 pounds gradually over the past few years, which has lessened the burden on her body and allowed her regular doctor to recommend she stop taking most of her 11 medications, Igani said. Ms. Townley said she hasn't fallen in a long time and she now socializes and goes out with family more than she has in years. "My family are tickled to death. They tell me if it hadn't been for James coming along I'd probably be in a wheelchair now with somebody pushing me," she said. Even late in life, small changes in nutrition and activity level can make a huge difference in quality of life, Igani said. Replacing processed, cooked items with raw and unprocessed foods such as fruits and vegetables can improve nutrition and significantly reduce water weight and fat stores, he said. "If you offer proper nutrition to your body, your weight goes to where it's supposed to. Your body seeks balance," he said. At Alexian Brothers Community Services' adult day care program, some senior diabetic patients even have lost enough weight through healthy diet changes to go off their diabetes medications, said Peggy Noblett, registered dietitian with the program. Minimal activity also can burn excess calories and improve strength and balance, boosting one's attitude and motivation to be social, experts say. Chattanooga geriatrician Dr. Lorna Birch emphasized that older folks should consult with a doctor before beginning any exercise program, and start slowly. Low-intensity activities such as walking, swimming or even just moving from room to room at home can make a difference, she said. "Adding any physical activity will help. People always think it has to be fancy but it doesn't," she said. Exercise can be "doing more things around the house, walking up the steps instead of taking the elevator." Elderly people often lack protein in their diet because they often don't like to cook, especially if they live alone, Ms. Noblett said. Adding other sources of protein such as soybeans, eggs and peanut butter can help balance a diet, she said. Particularly for those in their golden years, a healthy diet shouldn't be about self-denial, but rather should focus on balance, Ms. Noblett said. "You need to have some pleasure in life and eating is one of the big pleasures," she said. "We try to just average things out where you can have your cakes and pies, and yet not have them every day." Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Fewer in U.S. are satisfied with jobs

Even in a down economy, many long for meaning By Patricia Montemurri • DETROIT FREE PRESS • February 15, 2010 Odds are you're unhappy at your job. And we've got the numbers to prove it. Only 45.3 percent of Americans are "satisfied" with their work, according to a survey for the Conference Board Consumer Research Center released last month. When asked the same question in 1987, more than 61 percent of Americans said they were content with work. It might seem crass to be whining about job satisfaction when so many people have been laid off, bought out and displaced. But the study authors said that once the economy rebounds, disaffected workers could be a drag on a company's performance. The survey numbers showed a steady drop in job satisfaction even when the economy was booming and despite increases in income. Behind the decline, researchers said, is the perception that work is less interesting, engaging and meaningful. "Employees largely judge the overall quality of their jobs in terms of the degree to which they are challenged or stimulated," the report said. Sheila Johnson, 47, of Detroit, knows what makes her happy as a human resources technology services expert for the city. And she knows what makes her feel dissatisfied. "I love the challenges," Johnson said. "I love the problem-solving." In her current capacity, Johnson is working to improve efficiency. At previous jobs Johnson felt dissatisfied when she felt as if she was not fully trusted, or when she was prevented from performing at full tilt. "I'm self-motivated. I'll fix the world for you, but if you micromanage me, it's a problem," Johnson said. Most like co-workers How we are treated at work matters, experts say. And the survey cites co-workers as one of the top things many people actually like about their jobs. Our appreciation for our co-workers was the second-most-liked aspect of our jobs, with 56 percent of employees rating interaction with work buddies as satisfactory. Still, we don't like them as much as we used to. In 1987, satisfaction with co-workers was cited as satisfactory by 68 percent. But likable cubicle mates don't solve everything. Since 1987, the percentage of people who said they were interested in their work has dropped from 70 percent to 51 percent. "You're not going to get the maximum effort from an employee who's not interested in the job, and that could impact the bottom line," said Lynn Franco of the Conference Board. For many workers, it's the lack of potential growth that leads to dissatisfaction. Even if you've avoided layoffs and buyouts, it may seem there's less room for advancement because there is less voluntary turnover. The Wall Street Journal reported last month that from January to November 2009, 19.6 million people quit their jobs, the lowest amount since 2000. The Conference Board survey suggests employees are antsy — 22 percent said they didn't expect to be in their current job next year. "There is a desire to move on, but because of the economy, decisions about job mobility are extremely limited," Franco said. "But once the economy improves, employees can talk with their feet."

TennCare faces deep budget cuts

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Nashville Mayor Dean turns eye to mass transit

Dean says effort will cost billions and take years By Nate Rau • THE TENNESSEAN • February 15, 2010 If the convention center was a colossal and contentious public project, wait until you see Mayor Karl Dean's next undertaking: a multi-year, multibillion-dollar effort to renovate Middle Tennessee's mass transportation system. The payback to residents of the greater Nashville area, Dean says, will be a mass transit system to rival that of Denver, Charlotte and Austin. In recent weeks, Dean has regularly pointed to Denver as an example for how to overhaul regional transportation. In 2004, the Mile High City created a sales-tax-funded light rail system at a cost of $6.5 billion. That's a number 11 times bigger than the Music City Center's $585 million price tag. "The money is scary," Dean said. "But when you think of the region — and the Denver project is a big region like Middle Tennessee — as connecting Gallatin, Hendersonville, Clarksville, Murfreesboro, Franklin, Wilson County ... it's going to be an extremely expensive thing and it's going to take years to accomplish." Dean cautioned against delaying a massive transportation overhaul any longer. "I think transportation is so important, long-term, for the quality of life and economic viability of this region, that we have to do it," Dean said. Improving mass transit in the Nashville area has been a topic of conversation for many years, but there is evidence that the issue is moving past idle chatter. Last year Dean formed the regional mayors' caucus, which has met three times and will be meeting regularly on the issue of exploring a growing menu of mass transportation options. Following the lead of Denver, Dean also formed the Transit Alliance, which is a collection of business interests throughout the region that are supportive of the issue. Vanderbilt signs on The Transit Alliance's job will be to educate and engage the public on the issue, similar to what the Music City Center Coalition did for the convention center. Led by attorney Charles Bone, the alliance recently began the work of soliciting financial support from the business community. Already Bone has signed Vanderbilt University as lead donor; the university has promised to contribute $100,000 per year for the next three years to the Transit Alliance. Dean called private sector support "more important" than support from elected officials. "Mass transit is already an important part of the daily commute of many of Vanderbilt's 23,000 employees," Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos said. "This is an investment by Vanderbilt into the Nashville community and the convenience and comfort of everyone who teaches, researches, heals, studies and works at our campus every day." Last year, the General Assembly passed legislation that allows city councils to create sources of funding to pay for mass-transit initiatives. The legislation also allows for a public referendum to approve any new funding source. Public process to begin Although public officials have been careful not to speculate on what the funding source could be, Nashville Councilwoman Emily Evans said a thorough public awareness effort would be needed to advance the cause. Evans, a sharp critic of the Dean administration's convention center proposal, pointed out that it took more than two years of public outreach to get Davidson County residents on board to accept a new stormwater fee. Passed by the Metro Council last year, the fee allowed Metro to begin addressing a backlog of serious stormwater issues across the county. "I wholly encourage the effort — zero problem with dedicated funding for mass transit," Evans said. "But what's important when you take something from a chatter level and implement a radical new policy initiative ... the best chance for success is if you spend time building a consensus." The public's part in the process will begin soon, as the Nashville Area Metro Planning Organization, which serves as the transportation planning body for the Midstate, prepares to update a 30-year master plan that will be unveiled in October, said MPO Executive Director Michael Skipper. "I don't know if anybody could say that the general public has favored any one particular type of transit option," Skipper said. "That's what we're trying to get to." Light rail holds key Talk of the area's mass transportation system has centered around light rail connecting Nashville with outlying urban areas such as Gallatin, Hendersonville and Murfreesboro, in addition to Bus Rapid Transit lanes along Nashville's busiest thoroughfares. The region has tried its hand at commuter rail already. The Music City Star line between Wilson County and Nashville, installed in 2006, has had limited ridership. Nashville's Metro Transit Authority took over management of the line last year amid major financial concerns. Although federal funding will pick up some of the cost, Dean pointed out that Nashville has missed out on some federal dollars because of a lack of a funding source dedicated to such projects. Another stumbling block appears to be soliciting support for dedicated funding from a 10-county region with drastically different transportation needs. The public transportation needs of Gallatin vary from those of Brentwood, and so does the appetite for a new funding source. Still, Brentwood Mayor Betsy Crossley said members of the mayors' caucus have been extremely supportive of the initiative. "You can only put so much asphalt down," Crossley said. "I think as I-65 gets busier and busier and busier, we have to find an alternative way to transport people." Although Skipper said the MPO public process would begin in the coming weeks, no official public meetings have been announced.

Friday, February 12, 2010

CoverKids insurance program reopens to new enrollees

Health program will get funds from state savings account By Janell Ross • THE TENNESSEAN • February 12, 2010 Tennessee's uninsured children will have a chance to enroll in a government-funded health-care program beginning March 1, about four months after it was closed to new participants because of the state budget crunch. In November, cash-strapped Tennessee became the only state in the nation to close its version of the children's health insurance program to new enrollees. State officials said at the time closing CoverKids was a tough choice but necessary because of a projected $1.5 billion state budget shortfall. Now CoverKids will draw between $1.5 million and $2 million from a state savings account for public health insurance programs, said Joe Burchfield, a spokesman for Cover Tennessee, the umbrella organization that oversees CoverKids. That's enough to enroll the estimated 5,000 children who are uninsured and qualify for CoverKids, he said. Gov. Phil Bredesen made the announcement late Thursday. It was good news inside Tennessee's health-care advocate community but earned Bredesen limited praise. "We have a ways to go to catch the rest of the nation, but this is a good first step," said Michele Johnson, the Tennessee Justice Center's managing attorney. The center has sued the state several times over decisions to remove different groups of adults and children from public health insurance programs. "It sends a message to the hard-working, middle-class families who rely on this program that they matter, and when they are facing this tough economy, the state will not abandon them entirely," Johnson said. Closing CoverKids last year was just part of a long line of choices the governor has made that don't serve Tennessee residents well, said Tony Garr, executive director of the Tennessee Health Care Campaign. CoverKids is designed to insure children of the working poor. It also allows parents who earn a bit more money but work for companies that don't provide insurance to share the cost of insuring their kids with the government. State defends program Burchfield and other state officials insisted Thursday that the program is an option, not a safety net for all of these families. Most uninsured children qualify for TennCare, a separate public health insurance program that covers the state's poorest and sickest residents, Burchfield said. "Any sort of characterization of it as a program of last resort or a safety net program is just incorrect," said Michael Drescher, a spokesman for the governor. "… None of us wanted to have to close the program off, but it was designed to be turned on and off." We have made it a priority to reopen it four months before it would otherwise have been funded. ... We did that in recognition of the fact that kids are often victims of a circumstance they didn't create." Children who qualify for the program immediately will be covered beginning April 1. The state's new budget year begins in July. Bredesen has called for about $43 million in state funding for CoverKids next budget year. If it is approved, the program will gain about $41.5 million in federal matching funds. Marshall County parent Kim Young was happy to hear that CoverKids will begin accepting more children now. "I've had a chance to see just how valuable, how important CoverKids can be," she said. In December, Young got a letter that said her disabled 14-year-old son was one of thousands of chronically ill Tennesseans being removed from TennCare coverage. By January, Young found herself shuttling between phone lines at CoverKids, TennCare and the Tennessee Department of Human Services. Some state workers told her that her son was eligible for CoverKids. Others told her the program was closed to new enrollees. Ultimately, she learned her son was still covered under TennCare. Without it, the family would have had to leave their son uninsured until 2011 or find a way to pay $560 a month for an individual private health insurance policy. "The insurance I am talking about, at $560 a month it would have only covered 80 percent, plus then there would have been the co-pays … so we are talking about a lot of money," Young said. "It would have been devastating for us, devastating." "When you cut a public program, there is nowhere else to fall," Garr said. "The governor has no concept of the important role that public programs play. He's shown this time and time again in the cuts in TennCare and the decision to close CoverKids."

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

TennCare cuts would drop speech, physical, occupational therapy

By Getahn Ward • THE TENNESSEAN • February 10, 2010 Hospitals aren't the only health-care providers bracing for effects to their bottom lines from changes planned to TennCare. Under Gov. Phil Bredesen's budget plan, the state's Medicaid program would no longer cover speech, physical and occupational therapy for adults. The state expects to save $3.4 million each year from that move. Results Physiotherapy Centers, the Franklin-based for-profit operator of 26 out-patient-only physical therapy clinics across the state, expects to lose $420,000 in revenue a year, said C. Jason Richardson, its vice president of clinical operations. "If the TennCare cuts do go through as proposed by the governor's office, we won't be able to serve that population at all," said Richardson, also secretary of the Tennessee Physical Therapy Association. "They're actually shooting themselves in the foot because we're the best option for reducing disabilities without the need for surgeries, expensive imaging studies such as MRIs and CAT scans and also prescription medications." Under TennCare, Results Physiotherapy gets reimbursed about $70 on average per patient visit. As a group, TennCare beneficiaries make up 7 percent of the company's overall patient population, Richardson said. Overall, he said, the rehabilitation services to be eliminated account for about 3 percent of TennCare's health-care costs. Kelly Gunderson, a TennCare spokesman, said the budget plan reflects fiscal challenges faced by the state. "We have a huge hole to fill, and there's not that many places left to find that kind of money," she said. The budget plan also includes a $10,000 cap on in-patient hospital care. Hospitals that provide speech, physical, and occupational therapy services also would see effects from elimination of pay for those services. The hospice industry is one group that won't be affected by changes planned to TennCare. Although the governor's original budget proposal had called for eliminating hospice benefits for adults, the industry convinced TennCare officials that the expected savings weren't going to happen, said Mike Dietrich, executive director of the Tennessee Hospice Organization. Specifically, Dietrich said the amount of potential savings was inflated because the state had included the nursing home portion of beneficiaries' care as hospice costs. "They thought that they'd be saving a lot more than the reality of that situation," Dietrich said. Getahn Ward covers the business of health care. He can be reached at 615-726-5968 or

Condos propel increase in Nashville-area home sales

Demand is sluggish for building lots, single-family units By Naomi Snyder • THE TENNESSEAN • February 10, 2010 Homes sales climbed for the fourth consecutive month in January, rising 6 percent to 1,033 closings compared to the same month a year ago, mostly driven by new condo sales, according to figures released by the Greater Nashville Association of Realtors. But single-family home sales stayed flat compared to January a year ago, and land sales didn't show much improvement, either, as homebuilders continued to pick up scattered lots here and there for deeply discounted prices. Overall, prices for a single-family home continued to stay below comparable values from a year ago, the Realtors data showed Tuesday. The median price for a single-family home sold in January was $159,000, down 3.8 percent from a year ago. Prices have been held down by foreclosure sales and by a flood of first-time home buyers taking advantage of an $8,000 federal tax credit, and those home buyers tend to go after moderately priced homes, according to real estate agents. The median price for a condo was $154,550 in January, down from $165,000 a year ago. "People are wanting smaller houses, but they want lots of good stuff in there, like an outdoor fireplace, granite, gas lights outside,'' said Reggie Garner, the vice president of community development for Stone Gate Land Co., which is redesigning its Arrington Retreat subdivision off Nolensville Pike in Williamson County to accommodate lower-priced homes. The 229-lot subdivision was originally planned for $500,000 to $700,000 homes. Now, it likely will have $299,000 to $400,000 homes, Garner said. "There are a lot of lots on the high end that aren't moving,'' he said. It's not only home buyers interested in lower prices. So are the homebuilders. Pulte Homes, one of the largest builders in the Nashville area, bought an unfinished subdivision in Brentwood out of foreclosure for $6.2 million in January, one third less than the previous developers had paid in 2005. Pulte plans to build 140 lots in the subdivision, which is called Whetstone. Homes are to be priced at about $400,000, much less than the $1 million or so initially envisioned for the subdivision. "We were able to come up with a good offer from the bank,'' said Andy Pfeifer, vice president of sales and marketing for Pulte. "We were able to buy into Brentwood." Other developers say they're also picking up lots they couldn't have afforded a few years earlier, when the economy was more robust. Regent Homes, which developed Lenox Village in Nashville, bought 11 lots late last year in Bent Creek subdivision in Nolensville for $550,000. The deal had to be approved by a judge in U.S. Bankruptcy Court because the owner of the lots, Newmark Homes, had gone bankrupt. David McGowan, the president of Regent Homes, said the $50,000 per lot price was about one-third less than Newmark had paid. "The whole market is being reset,'' McGowan said. Loans hard to get Land sales still are significantly down compared to previous years. Thirty-eight lots sold in January, up from 34 during the same month a year ago. That's only one-fifth the sales completed during the peak of the real estate market in 2005. McGowan said one thing holding back land sales is the difficulty getting a bank to approve acquisition and development loans. "The banks have completely shut us down,'' McGowan said. "With the banks shutting down all of the development process, there is no supply coming into place. All the good lots are being chewed up very quick. There will come a time in the next year or two that we will have a shortage of good lots." Until that happens, people such as McGowan will be trying to get a good deal

'Mystery shopper' letter is $1,000 scam

Victims are tricked by real-looking check By Kate Howard • THE TENNESSEAN • February 10, 2010 An elaborate scam to trick people into believing they've been hired as mystery shoppers is going strong despite plenty of attention meant to combat it in recent months. The Better Business Bureau of Nashville says it's a new twist on an old scam: the victims get a phony check to go on a secret shopping trip, take a percentage for their time and return the rest to the sender. Often they wire back the unspent cash before learning that the check they just deposited was worthless, and they're on the hook for the bounced check. In this scam, the person is sent a check of more than $1,000 that is supposed to cover a payment of several hundred dollars, money for shopping, and the bulk of it to be wired back to the company. Though the checks look legitimate enough to often be successfully deposited, they're phony and cause the victim's bank account to be overdrawn. When Tracey Watkins got the letter in the mail this week with the check for more than $1,000, she thought at first it was an overpayment from her escrow ac- count. But she knew it was a scam when she read the en- closed letter, telling her she had been given what she need- ed to conduct an evaluation of Western Union after cashing her check, and wiring money back to the company. It's a typical scam, but the letter even included forms to evaluate shopping centers and money wire locations and a copy of the company's strict ethics policy. "It's just a regular check, and it looks like a refund check almost," Watkins said. "I live in North Nashville and there are so many older people out here, I'm afraid they might think because of the way it reads they were getting a part-time job." Kathleen Calligan, the CEO of the Nashville BBB, said the BBB collected more than $790,000 in counterfeit checks from consumers in Middle Tennessee when the organization publicized the scam late last fall. "It is a very elaborate scheme that has been extremely successful since unemployment hit 10 percent," Calligan said. People often believe they've landed a small job, Calligan said, and since the scheme asks people to do work it's convincing for many. Lt. Mickey Garner of the Metro police department's fraud unit said they've encountered the same elderly man twice, working as a middleman for the scam and collecting payments. He took a cut and sent the payment on, Garner said, and didn't even realize he was doing anything wrong. "He thought he'd found this job," he said. "Next time, he's going to jail."

Tennessee lawmaker: Enforce liquor law

Establishments must sell more food than booze By Nate Rau • THE TENNESSEAN • February 10, 2010 There are no bars in Tennessee, according to the letter of the law, which says establishments must derive a majority of their business from the sale of food in order to obtain an alcohol permit. But many businesses licensed as restaurants operate more like bars, with late-night hours and most of their sales coming from alcohol. Those establishments are violating the law and subjecting themselves to a $1,500 monthly fine. Rep. Curry Todd, R-Collierville, wants to see the state Alcoholic Beverage Commission strictly enforce laws on the books since the state began allowing liquor-by-the-drink sales a generation ago. Todd has filed a bill that would require "restaurants" to report their food and alcohol sales monthly to the ABC board, which would then have the power to fine, or shut down, establishments failing to sell more food than alcohol. "If in fact you want an ABC license then you need to meet the requirements to attain that license," Todd said. In 2009, the ABC board collected $84,000 in fines from establishments failing to meet the minimum food service requirement. Big Bang, Tootsies Orchid Lounge, Lipstick Lounge and Hollywood Disco were among the "restaurants" that failed to derive most of their income from the sale of food. "Here's the issue: If you own anything that would be considered more of a bar than a restaurant by the average guest, you can have a kitchen, put menus on the table, you can do everything it takes to show people that you sell food, but you can't make them order food," said Austin Ray, owner of the Melrose Neighborhood Pub, which he says regularly walks the line between meeting and failing to meet the requirement on a monthly basis. New permit mentioned Todd said he introduced his legislation in response to the fallout from last year's new state law allowing permit holders to carry guns into places serving alcohol. The law was struck down by a Nashville judge, who said it was too vague since permit holders wouldn't know whether an establishment was meeting the food service requirement. Todd said he was open to re-examining the state law and perhaps creating a new bar or cabaret permit for establishments already effectively operating as bars. Will Cheek, an attorney with the Nashville firm Bone McAllester Norton, said that would be a better route for legislators to take if they were serious about addressing the issue. "It's a ridiculous requirement," said Cheek, who has represented bars across the state. "It's the exact opposite way this problem should be fixed. "The legislature should recognize these legitimate businesses with a law that allows them to serve alcohol as a bar." Todd, a retired Memphis police officer, also filed a bill to cut off the sale of alcohol and beer at midnight. Todd said he believes most alcohol-influenced crimes occur after midnight. But Sam Sanchez, owner of Sam's Sports Bar and Grill, said such a law would hurt tax collections and eliminate jobs across the state. "If I'm not mistaken, we're coming up short already in tax collections," Sanchez said. "So go ahead and come up much shorter and take away jobs while we're at it. That's not the right direction to be heading in."

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tennessee hospitals push for tax to offset cuts to TennCare

By Chas Sisk • THE TENNESSEAN • February 9, 2010 The Tennessee Hospital Association's members will push for a temporary tax on their revenues to reduce cuts to the TennCare program proposed last week by Gov. Phil Bredesen. The association's board voted Monday to approve a one-year "coverage fee" of 1 percent to 2 percent that would raise money for hospital services scheduled to receive less funding from TennCare. The fee likely would go into effect July 1 and would not be passed along to patients, association officials said. The group also will lobby the state to dip further into reserves and to use any additional revenue that comes into the state to reduce TennCare cuts. "We care about patients. We care about continued delivery of services," said the board's chairman, James Brexler, the president and chief executive of Erlanger Health System in Chattanooga. "We have done our part." The unusual move — which means hospitals essentially will lobby the legislature to tax them — is meant to offset some of the $370 million in TennCare cuts proposed by Bredesen as part of next year's budget. The legislature will hold hearings on the budget proposal this week and must vote on a new spending plan by June 30. Because the federal government sends Tennessee two dollars to three dollars for every dollar the state spends on TennCare, hospitals estimate that the Bredesen administration's cuts to TennCare could take as much as $1.5 billion out of Tennessee's health-care system. That would cost hospitals more money than the tax, hospitals believe. Some are exempt Government-owned hospitals such as Nashville's Metro General would be exempt from the tax, officials said. Revenue from the tax would go into a trust fund that could be used only for hospital services — such as reimbursements for indigent care, funding for graduate medical education and coverage for inpatient services — that would be reduced when the new budget year starts this summer. The exact level of the tax would depend on the specific programs that would be funded with it, but hospitals estimate they would need to raise a maximum of $200 million from the tax, said Craig Becker, the association's president and chief executive. The tax would apply even to hospitals that see few TennCare patients, but they voted to approve the tax, nevertheless. Becker said he'd received a favorable response from Gov. Bredesen's administration about the proposal. "We were unanimous in authorizing this alternative to this amount of a cut . . . and the fact that a fee was the best of the options that were available to us," Brexler said. "I think it would be a little overstated in saying we were all unanimous in our support for creating a fee."

TN lawmakers consider new oversight of sex abuse inquiries at youth facilities

DCS officials questioned about how they investigate claims By Nate Rau • THE TENNESSEAN • February 9, 2010 State lawmakers Monday discussed ways to improve oversight of sexual abuse claims at state juvenile detention facilities in the wake of a damning federal report that named a Nashville center as having one of the worst rates of abuse in the country. Members of the joint Select Committee on Children and Youth asked officials from the Department of Children's Services how it investigates workers when claims of sex abuse are made by youths incarcerated at a state-run juvenile detention facility. The committee met in response to a report issued in January by the U.S. Department of Justice, which said Nashville juvenile detention facility Woodland Hills Youth Development Center had one of the highest rates of sexual victimization in the country. The report said a majority of the cases nationally and at Woodland Hills involved female staffers' abusing male youths. An investigation by The Tennessean on Sunday identified similar claims. In 2007, for example, kitchen staffer Luana Settle was convicted of statutory rape after she had given a 17-year-old youth at the center chlamydia, and went on to live with another boy she'd had a sexual encounter with at the facility. None of the five special DCS investigations into Settle found that she had committed sexual abuse. DCS said it investigates claims of sex abuse along with Metro Police and the district attorney. "The committee believes the department investigating itself is not a good policy," said Nashville Democrat Rep. Sherry Jones, who chairs the committee. Jones said it was possible the committee would introduce legislation to remove the special investigation unit from under the DCS umbrella. Jones also said the committee would consider a measure requiring that police investigate claims of sex abuse. When Settle was investigated in 2007, a Metro detective said police were not notified of any past claims of abuse. Outside help urged Sen. Diane Black, a Gallatin Republican, suggested the state use outside specialists to interview juveniles about sex abuse claims. Currently DCS uses its own internal investigators to consider such claims. Rep. Chad Faulkner said the state should use an outside party to collect claims of abuse. Currently, an officer within the juvenile center collects claims and forwards them to authorities. "Whatever we're doing is not working," said Faulkner, a Republican from Luttrell. Related Sex abuse allegations plague TN juvenile detention center Sen. Thelma Harper expressed concern that girls being held under DCS care at the New Visions Center would soon be moved to Woodland Hills under a budget cut proposal from Gov. Phil Bredesen's administration. "I hate to see us splashed in Tennessee with sexual problems," said Harper, a Nashville Democrat. "I'm hoping in some way we could be removed from the list. Not only because those are children, but the other is because those are females. That's just not something that's traditional for women." DCS Deputy Commissioner Steve Hornsby said the department was taking the federal report seriously, but added that he didn't know why Woodland Hills found its way onto a list of the 13 worst centers in the country for claims of abuse. Hornsby called the report's findings that 95 percent of abuse nationwide came at the hands of female staff an "interesting phenomenon." Pointing to the popular film The Shawshank Redemption, which contains scenes depicting violent acts of prison rape, Hornsby said he didn't believe such acts were happening at Woodland Hills. The federal report questioned more than 9,000 youths at juvenile centers nationwide. The youths who participated in the survey were promised anonymity; their abuse claims could not be investigated. When Settle was investigated in 2007, a Metro detective said police were not notified of any past claims of abuse.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Tennessee's mental health cuts deepen

Patient advocates say loss of services could cost lives By Christina E. Sanchez • THE TENNESSEAN • February 8, 2010 Tennessee's mental health agency, already struggling from last year's budget cuts, is facing a double whammy in 2010 — deeper cuts to its own budget coupled with reductions in TennCare insurance for many of its patients. Advocates for the mentally ill say more reductions in services may endanger lives. "The mental health system was severely underfunded to begin with, and it's increasingly fragile," said Sita Diehl, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Tennessee. "We can't take any more cuts. If they take away from the system, these people will end up in another — jail or, even worse, the morgue." Since July 2008, the mental health agency has shed nearly a quarter of its staff — 672 positions — and more than 247 beds at its state hospital. Now, the Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities is facing $9.4 million in additional cuts. For many patients, the newly proposed TennCare health plan cuts will compound the challenge by restricting doctor visits and laboratory tests. "Someone who is mentally ill, is poor and has a hard time managing mental illness will end up at the hospital, and the state will end up paying more," said Pam Womack, executive director and co-founder of the Mental Health Co-op in Nashville. Children's unit to be closed The lone state-run children's mental illness unit, comprising 14 beds at Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute, will be closed under next year's fiscal budget, said Sarah Lingo, spokeswoman for the Tennessee Department of Mental Health. But the department feels private hospitals' beds for children will be sufficient. Also in jeopardy are programs designed to help the mentally ill within their own communities. Lingo said the department will see significant gaps in funding for alcohol- and drug-abuse treatment and for peer support centers, in which people with mental illness run recovery programs to help others who are mentally ill. "As the number of uninsured individuals increases, funding for crisis services will not keep pace with the need for those services in the proposed budget," Lingo said. However, the department plans to protect its $21.5 million budget for the Behavioral Health Safety Net. The "safety net" provides services for the sickest mentally ill clients who don't qualify for TennCare but lack private insurance. "When looking at these budget cuts, we tried to keep core services so when the time is right and the economy recovers, we can restore programs," Lingo said. "Since (the TennCare cuts) have not been approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, we don't have a good idea on how that impact would impact our services." The TennCare bureau submitted its proposed $200 million cuts to CMS last week, and it is unknown when the federal agency will approve or deny the request. Among other things, the proposed cuts would limit participants to eight doctor visits a year, place a $10,000 annual cap on payments for inpatient hospital care, and restrict how many times lab work can be performed. The Department of Mental Health had been slated to receive a $37 million cut for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, but federal stimulus money and restored funding brought the cut to about $15 million, said Lingo. Centers got high marks Just last year, a report from NAMI hailed Tennessee as an innovator for its peer support centers, which give people with mental illness a chance to work and to support one another. The peer support program had grown to nearly 50 locations across the state by 2008 — before it was downsized. Today, there are seven. Bonnie Kelly, 55, said bipolar disorder had prevented her from working until she found peer support centers. Bouts of extreme creativity and energy would help her function, but then she would crash, come down off her high and enter a severe depression. At the peer support center, she got a job as an activities director. No other place would hire her. Community programs and housing liaisons, who help the mentally ill find places to live, are vital to recovery outside a hospital, said Anthony Fox, executive director of the Tennessee Mental Health Consumers Association, who also suffers from bipolar disorder. "There is nothing wrong with us, but we're trying to overcome an illness that most people don't understand," Fox said. Kelly now uses the Mental Health Co-op program, which she says saved her life. The co-op, a nonprofit mental health crisis organization, gets help for the patients with severest mental illnesses and serves as a gatekeeper for the state mental institutes. She worries about the impact of the budget cuts. "People will die. They will be sick and not get the care they need," said Kelly. "I didn't choose to be mentally ill. It's rough to be very severely mentally ill." NAMI, which grades states' mental health systems, said Tennessee's mental health crisis has been getting more serious, and demoted the state from a grade of C in 2006 to a D in 2009. No state in the nation got an A. Tennessee fell about in the middle of the pack. Police have had hands full The cuts have meant that Nashville police officers have had their hands full at times when the 200-bed Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute is full. Officers watch the patients until a bed is available, sometime on the other side of the state, said Commander Bob Nash of the Metro police. "If I've got officers tied up for several shifts; that keeps them from performing other duties, such as working on criminal activities," said Nash. NAMI of Tennessee estimates that at least 20 percent of the jail population is mentally ill, and that number could be closer to 25 percent or 30 percent. Police want to help speed the process of getting clinical services. That might require a policy change so that officers could transport mental health patients to other state hospitals where beds are available, Nash said. Two weekends ago, Metro police officers were tied up for several patrol shifts to watch over a mentally ill patient until he could get a bed at the Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute. "Helping people through crisis is one of our duties, and we may very well save someone's life," said Nash. "But the probability that we might not have a bed available is going up."

Nashville convention hotel deal looks less certain

City seeks new plans as private financing falls short By Michael Cass • THE TENNESSEAN • February 8, 2010 What once seemed like a firm deal to build a Marriott Marquis to serve as the headquarters hotel for a new downtown convention center now appears less solid. Metro leaders say they hope multiple hotel developers and operators will come forward with new private-public financing plans. The Metro Council approved construction of the $585 million convention center last month, but Mayor Karl Dean decided to hold off on presenting a hotel deal until he could find more attractive terms. But some experts say 2010 will be another difficult year for building hotels. Although the city chose Colorado-based Phelps Development and Portman Holdings of Atlanta to develop a convention center hotel last year, it didn't have contracts with them or Marriott International, which was picked to run the facility. Working with Dean's administration, the Phelps-Portman team was unable to come up with significant private financing. "Certainly the Phelps-Portman group is a very viable group, and hopefully there will be a way to bring that to a complete, solid deal," Marty Dickens, chairman of the Convention Center Authority, said Friday. "But we wouldn't want to discourage anyone if they can put together the right financing and right private investment to make it viable for the city." Dickens and Metro Finance Director Rich Riebeling said they haven't yet discussed a formal process for soliciting and evaluating hotel development proposals. Riebeling said the authority would run the process, with input from him and others in Dean's administration. Hotels built elsewhere Metro picked Phelps-Portman in June from a pool of 10 competing development teams. Phelps and Portman have built hotels together in San Diego, Atlanta, Charlotte, New York, Orlando, Denver and other cities, with Portman handling design and Phelps doing the building. Roger Zampell, Portman's senior vice president for development, said Phelps-Portman had an agreement with the city and he expects the group to have the first opportunity to bring a deal to the authority. "We would certainly hope so," Zampell said. "We went through a public process to be selected. I assume nothing has changed." Riebeling said there was no formal agreement. But he said Phelps-Portman and Marriott could still have an edge. "If they could come forward with a transaction, they would obviously be in prime position," he said. A Marriott spokeswoman, Paula Butler, said the Washington, D.C.-based company — which Metro selected to build what would be just the fourth Marriott Marquis — wouldn't comment "until a specific project is finalized." Center to open in 2013 The convention center is scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2013. Officials say they hope a hotel, which will take just two years to build, can open alongside it around the same time. Dickens said he thinks the authority can find a viable deal in the next few months. "During the first half of this year, I'm very optimistic that there will be a way for a public-private partnership that works," he said. "Now that the convention center has been approved, I think we'll be able to get there." But Mark Bloom, senior vice president for tax-free bonds with UBS Financial Services Inc. and a minority owner of the Hilton Downtown Nashville near the convention center site, said the market for financing hotels remains weak. "There's going to be very little new hotel development moving forward this year," Bloom said. "It's probably the most restrictive lending environment for hotels that we've seen in the past 30 years." Bloom said there wouldn't be much political appetite for $200 million or more in public financing so soon after the contentious convention center debate. "All that being said, if creative minds can create a public-private partnership, then you do have at least a faint heartbeat, whereas before you had a patient that was lost," he said. Others say that even in the economic downturn, downtown Nashville should look appealing to the hotel industry. The Music City Center will add more than 250,000 square feet of convention space to the downtown inventory, and a $250 million, privately financed medical trade center has been proposed for the site of the existing convention center. Feasibility study done A feasibility study by HVS Consulting found that a 750-room convention center hotel could achieve occupancy rates of about 75 percent. Its primary competitors would be the Hilton, the Renaissance, the Sheraton and the DoubleTree, which have about 1,800 rooms combined. "The overall market analysis indicates strong demand for a new lodging facility in downtown Nashville," wrote the consulting firm, which was criticized by some Metro Council members for its projections of strong demand for the convention center. Zampell said the lending markets are looking better, and the Phelps-Portman team will try to make something work in the coming months. "That'll be our task," he said.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Downtown parking citations enforced on Saturday now

Workers upset by fines By Nancy DeVille • THE TENNESSEAN • February 5, 2010 Some Nashville drivers are not feeling the need to feed the downtown parking meters on Saturday. And the city has the citations to prove it. Since the Saturday meter parking enforcement went into effect last month in portions of downtown, Metro Public Works patrol officers have issued more than 200 tickets in the past few weeks. Parking hours and limits on Saturday include meters in the area bordered by James Robertson Parkway, Rosa L. Parks Boulevard, Broadway and Second Avenue North. The meter's rate in these areas is $1.50 an hour. Jeni Curlin who works part time at the Wild Horse Saloon says she searches for ways to avoid the parking meters. She's forced to leave her Hermitage home about 45 minutes prior to her shift just to find a place to park her car. Curlin often lands a spot in a loading dock or sometimes simply takes a risk at parking at a meter without paying, hoping not to get a parking ticket. "I don't have eight hours of change and can't leave work every two hours to feed the meter," she said. "I can't afford to spend half my salary on parking. "It's much more difficult to park now than it was before. I understand what they are trying to do, but tourists don't park at meters. Locals are the ones getting hurt by this." The Metro Traffic and Parking Commission approved the use of the Saturday meters during its November meeting. Public Works recommended the change to encourage more turnover at meters, making street parking available to more downtown visitors and patrons. A recent study of the area showed nearly 100 percent occupancy rates on Saturday, instead of the ideal 85 percent, said Gwen Hopkins-Glascock with Metro Public Works. "We want to avoid having folks monopolizing the downtown meters for longer than they should," she said. "We need to create that turnover for visitors and patrons of the downtown businesses." Hopkins-Glascock said those who will be downtown for an extended time should consider parking in one of Metro's garage facilities either at the Main Library or the Metro Courthouse. Saturday enforcement could generate an additional $30,000 a month. Annually the nearly 2,000 parking meters operated by Public Works contribute about $1.1 million. "When we were taking a look at all of our rev programs to see what we could do to help with the budget, this was one that seemed easy," said Hopkins-Glascock. Metro Public Works enforced meter parking on Saturdays until 2003 when a special ordinance was passed by the Metro Council to amend the law to exclude Saturdays, Hopkins-Glascock said. It expired in 2004, but wasn't reinstated until last month.

Nashville Zoo offers discounts Sunday

USA Today NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — It's not the Super Bowl, but Zooperbowl. The Nashville Zoo is offering half-price admission on Super Bowl Sunday. It's $7 for adults, $4.50 for children 3 to 12 and $6 for seniors 65 or older. In a news release announcing the promotion, zoo officials said some species (cougars, Bengal tigers, zebras, eland, red pandas and Eurasian lynx) are often more active during cooler months. Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

I-40, I-440 in Nashville have weekend construction

USA TODAY NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Interstate highway travel through Nashville this weekend will have a couple of kinks. State transportation officials say a contractor will swing large steel beams into place at a flyover ramp project at Interstate 40 and White Bridge Road on the city's west side. Interstate traffic won't be stopped, but travel on White Bridge over I-40 will have lane closures and some traffic stoppage. The other work is a continuation of concrete repair on I-440, only a couple of miles from the ramp project. All eastbound lanes of I-440 will be closed from I-40 to I-65 beginning Friday at 8 p.m. and ending by 6 a.m. Monday. The best detour for eastbound traffic is to continue downtown and pick up I-65 off the downtown "loop" and then connect to I-40 again.

Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum is open free Saturday

February 5, 2010 Admission to The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum will be free on Saturday. Exhibits will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The Hall on Fifth Avenue South is partnering with the Ford Motor Company Fund to offer the event. It was scheduled for Jan. 30 but was cancelled because of bad weather. Free songwriter sessions will be offered at 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. in the Ford Theater. Featured artists will include Tim Buppert and Jerry Vandiver. The museum also will offer a musical petting zoo at 3 p.m. in the SunTrust Community Room. The zoo will allow visitors to have a hands-on experience with numerous musical instruments. For more information, visit

Nashville Mayor Dean to head mass transit group

By Jenny Upchurch • THE TENNESSEAN • February 5, 2010 A new partnership to improve Middle Tennessee's public transportation system was announced Thursday between public and private sectors and between cities and counties. Nashville Mayor Karl Dean will head the group, the Transit Alliance of Middle Tennessee, and called for "a bold vision" that includes more mass transit and more walkable communities. Nashville is trailing cities such as Denver, Austin and Charlotte in the race for new residents and business, he said. On a scale of 10, he said he'd rank Nashville as a four. "This is a wonderful place to live and work," Dean said a news conference Thursday, "but it is not lost on any of us that they are moving ahead of us in transportation." Dean said light rail projects might be part of a regional transportation plan. But there are other options, including bus rapid transit and commuter vans. The crucial factor, he said, will be securing funding. The next few months are crucial as a long-range transportation plan is finished. The 2035 Regional Transportation Plan will be unveiled May 26. It will guide how money, including millions in federal fuel tax revenue, is allotted for Middle Tennessee projects. Michael Skipper, head of the MPO, says the 2035 plan will help Middle Tennessee compete for large grants for transportation projects. Cities like Nashville have faced a catch, he said. To compete for money to build rail lines or bus systems, cities pretty much had to have them in place already. The only cities that benefited were Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. Ralph Schulz, the chief of the Nashville Chamber of Commerce, says businesses checking out Middle Tennessee for relocation always have one question. What are you doing about transportation? "People work well away from where they live. People shop well away from where they live. And there are the future challenges, that we already see, of energy in scarcity and cost," Schulz said

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Metro Nashville workers get incentive to volunteer at schools

Metro Nashville's 11,000 government workers can volunteer two hours a week in the city's public schools and still be paid, Mayor Karl Dean said Wednesday. Dean said he hopes the measure will spur volunteerism throughout Nashville. He signed an executive order in front of a fourth-grade class at Warner Elementary School in East Nashville. "Research has shown that if students are paired up with volunteer tutors and mentors, they are more likely to improve their grades, be more engaged in school and, most importantly, to graduate from high school," Dean said. Dean said he hoped Nashville's private sector would follow suit and provide workers with a similar program. Jan Moore, who teaches foreign language speakers English at Warner Elementary, applauded the program. Moore said a volunteer in her class last year made it possible to put on a Thanksgiving program for her students. "It really makes a difference," Moore said of volunteers helping in the classroom. "It especially helps with reading and having people they can read to." Metro Schools Director Jesse Register said the program was a great effort. "Volunteers add so much to what our schools can offer students," Register said. "These benefits extend well past assisting teachers, mentoring or tutoring students, or assisting with improvement projects. They provide that community involvement and support that is so critical to success." Schools' needs queried According to district officials, individual schools were asked to identify areas where they needed help and are working with nonprofits to increase community volunteers. The PENCIL Foundation, a local nonprofit, will manage the program by matching volunteers with the 10 pilot schools, which are Dan Mills Elementary, John Early Middle, Cane Ridge High, Dodson Elementary, East Literature, J.T. Moore Middle, LEAD Academy, Madison Middle, McGavock High and Wharton Elementary. The program will grow with demand, Dean said. James McClanahan, who works as a volunteer services assistant for the Metro Library Department, signed up for the volunteer program shortly after Dean's announcement. McClanahan said he hoped Metro employees would use the program as a way to get more people involved and give more time. "To be able to give back to the lives of children is one of the most important things for their future success," McClanahan said. Workers can register at

TennCare cuts threaten Nashville General hospital

Hospital that serves large numbers of poor may lose $10.5 million By Christina E. Sanchez • THE TENNESSEAN • February 4, 2010 Looming cuts to a health insurance program for the state's poorest patients could deal a devastating blow to Nashville General Hospital at Meharry. The governor's proposed $200 million in cuts to TennCare could mean a budget gap of $10.5 million for the public hospital, which has struggled financially in recent years. The proposal also would limit coverage for TennCare recipients, forcing hospitals to pick up what the health insurance plan won't. Gov. Phil Bredesen offered up the cuts in his budget address Monday as a way to help solve Tennessee's financial shortfall for the coming fiscal year. But supporters of the public hospital wonder whether Nashville General, and a sister safety net hospital, the Regional Medical Center at Memphis, would survive the cuts. The Med could see a $50 million funding loss. The hospitals serve large numbers of uninsured and uninsurable residents. "Poor people will not get the care they need if this is shut down," said the Rev. Jay Voorhees, a member of a clergy advocacy group, Nashvillians for Metro General. "It will affect people's ability to be healthy. Some of these people will die." Nashville General will work with other hospitals, the Tennessee Hospital Association and the Tennessee Association of Public and Teaching Hospitals, on solutions to deal with the cuts, the hospital's interim CEO, Jason Boyd, said in a statement. "Nashville General cannot absorb a $10.5 million cut, but is hopeful the state working in concert with the hospital advocacy groups can find a solution to fund hospitals that provide a high portion of TennCare, charity and unfunded care to the citizens of Tennessee," he said. Struggling to resolve financial constraints is a familiar scenario for the hospital. In early 2009, the hospital lacked money and had no reserve funds. Also, the hospital had $66.9 million in bad debt and charity in 2008, state department of health data show. The hospital authority tightened its belt and should end the 2010 fiscal year with a barely balanced budget, but then it faces the potential TennCare cut. "You can't lose $10 million without it affecting the services it's going to give," Voorhees said. Among the planned TennCare reductions: occupational, physical and speech therapy would be eliminated; in-patient hospital care would be capped at $10,000; hospice care would be eliminated; and patients would be limited to eight non-emergency doctors' visits a year. Pregnant women and children would be exempt from many of the limits. Cuts must be approved The TennCare Bureau must get approval to make the cuts from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. According to information provided by Dr. Joey Hensley, chairman of the state oversight committee on TennCare, only two other states cap payments for their versions of Medicaid. Texas has a cap of $200,000. Minnesota has a $10,000 cap, but it applies only to those who make more than 175 percent of the state's living wage. The cuts to TennCare have been on the table for almost two years. Cuts were supposed to occur during the current budget year, but federal stimulus funds temporarily filled the gap. Voorhees says people have known the cuts were coming, but no solution is given on how to give people health care. "Health care is a basic human right," he said. "There is never an answer on how we make sure folks are cared for."