Note: today the Tennessee legislature voted down Governor Haslam’s humane health care proposal. But this is the Op-Ed I wrote before they made that decision…
I am glad to see that Governor Haslam of Tennessee is working to expand health care coverage to low income Tennessee residents who currently do not qualify for TennCare coverage.
I am a former Chattanooga resident, now living in Asheville, who did manage to qualify for medical care under TennCare in 1999. TennCare was a godsend to me, because it enabled me to continue on a regime of psychotropic medication while in recovery from previously untreated Bipolar Disorder.
After becoming homeless and unemployed in Western Massachusetts, I began with the mental health recovery process with the help of a program called health Care for the Homeless. Gradually, while living in a rehab shelter in Northampton, I began to get back on my feet, and began to work again, holding down two jobs, eventually. Finally, I decided to move back to the South, where I grew up, and came to live, initially, with extended family members in the Chattanooga area.
I was enabled to continue with the recovery process and after a short time and obtained two jobs. TennCare eligibility allowed me to obtain care through a primary care physician, who continued to prescribe my psychotropic medication. I felt good about the fact that I was still responsible for co-pays, but at a level that I could afford and was glad to pay rent while sharing a house with my relatives
Eventually, I was able to rent my own apartment below Lookout Mountain. After three years, I finally located a full-time job counseling Native American kids in an Indian reservation in New Mexico.
The bottom line is that through Tennessee’s health care plan, I was enabled to not only continue with mental health recovery, but also to become a contributing member of society once again.
Since that time I have remarried and my wife of 10 years and I are very happy to be living in the Blue Ridge area of North Carolina. My wife is an artist-crafter, and each summer we cross the border to the adjoining mountain region of Tennessee to participate in craft fairs.
I love and miss Tennessee and am glad that we can spend time with the good folks who organize and participate in those art-craft venues.
The time I spent in Tennessee, the hospitality that was shown to me, even inspired me to write and compose a song of appreciation (I am a poet and songwriter), and I would like to take this opportunity to share the lyrics with you now:
Proud to Call Tennessee My Home, a place where I don’t ever feel alone, strangers seem to understand the hunger of a rootless man, proud to call Tennessee my home
Glad that here I chose to take my stand, folks are not afraid to shake my hand, glad to see the red sun rise upon this precious land and sky, proud to call Tennessee my home
A man forever wandering is blessed to find a place of peacefulness and rest, a place to watch a great bird soar, a mountain that I can explore, proud to call Tennessee my home
A place where I can dream again and plan, day by day a harder working man, a simple life, a quiet need, a place to love, to plant a seed, proud to call Tennessee my home
But to return to the current debate over health care in Tennessee, I want to urge folks to consider that when you provide access to good health care to low-income folks, many of them are enabled to give more back to the community at large. It sounds like Governor Haslam is on the right track with his Insure Tennessee Plan.
Oh, one more thing: Go Vols! I remain a UT fan.