Federal Judge Approves Lawsuit Exit Plan

Friday, January 30, 2015 | 03:25am

Completion of Exit Plan could lead to dismissal of 20-year disabilities lawsuit

NASHVILLE—A federal judge issued an order on Thursday approving an Exit Plan that ultimately will lead to the end of a nearly 20-year-old lawsuit stemming from conditions at three current and former state developmental centers for persons with intellectual disabilities.

The order was issued by U.S. District Judge Kevin Sharp and approves the Exit Plan in the long-standing Clover Bottom lawsuit. The Exit Plan was agreed to and executed by all of the parties to the lawsuit: the State, the U.S. Department of Justice, People First of Tennessee and the Parent Guardian Associations of Clover Bottom Developmental Center and Greene Valley Developmental Center. 

The Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD), the Bureau of TennCare and the Attorney General’s office participated in court-ordered mediation for six months to reach the Exit Plan. The order entered by Judge Sharp calls for a two-phase dismissal of the lawsuit based on the state completing obligations set forth in the Exit Plan.

The first phase is comprised of eight responsibilities DIDD and TennCare must complete by December 31, 2015 in order for the lawsuit to be partially dismissed. These responsibilities include:

  • Developing behavior respite services in East and Middle Tennessee
  • Revising support plan templates for persons supported and requiring training for support coordinators
  • Developing training for licensed physicians on the use of psychotropic medications for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities
  • Enhancing training for law enforcement who may come into contact with persons with intellectual or developmental disabilities

The second phase requires the closure of Greene Valley Developmental Center in Greeneville by June 30, 2016.  Upon closure, the lawsuit would be fully and finally dismissed.

“Coming to this Exit Plan required us to make some tough decisions, and we have a lot of work ahead of us,” DIDD Commissioner Debra Payne said. “However, we believe the Exit Plan as a whole will benefit not only the members of the lawsuit class but also every person who receives DIDD services now and in the future.”

The lawsuit was brought by People First of Tennessee and the U.S. Department of Justice in 1995 over conditions at Clover Bottom Developmental Center, Greene Valley Developmental Center and the now-closed Nat T. Winston Developmental Center. Clover Bottom Developmental Center is scheduled to close this summer.  

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