A Catoosa County father has been at odds with the county's Trans-Aid Department for the past couple of months after learning that a policy evaluation will leave his grown son without transportation to his mental health facility in Chattanooga, Tenn.
George Battersby says his grown son, 41-year-old Patrick, has been transported to the Aim Center in Chattanooga for 25 years by Catoosa County Trans-Aid, a service that will come to an end on March 31.
"On March 10, I got a hand-delivered letter from Trans-Aid Director Jason Warren stating Catoosa County would be suspending transportation for my son, something they've done for 25 years," Battersby said during a March 21 commission meeting.
Warren, who took over as Trans-Aid director in 2016, notified the commission around the first of the year that the county had not been following the right procedure for years by transporting people out of the county.
"We've been violating our own policy for some time," Warren said. "We can look at taking him (Patrick) in a way that fits our policy."
Warren and the commission began working in January to remedy the problem, which started the controversy with the Battersby family.
County Manager Jim Walker says he, Warren, and commission chairman Steven Henry had been trying to come up with a solution to the issue, but that nothing ever got resolved.
"Jason Warren was just doing the job he was hired to do," Walker said in February. "He discovered that we were breaking our own policy, and we needed to fix that."
Battersby says Warren offered for the Trans-Aid buses to take his son to the state line where a CARTA bus could then take him the Aim Center for his treatment, but that that wasn't a sufficient alternative.
Battersby says the biggest issue with the CARTA arrangement would be that once Patrick was taken to the state line, there is no guarantee that a CARTA bus would be there at a certain time for a seamless transition.
"I talked to CARTA about it, and they said sometimes buses run late, sometimes they run early," Battersby said. "I can't leave my son out on the street waiting around if the buses aren't ready to pick him up. Patrick has paranoid schizophrenia. If he gets worried about something or thinks a stranger or someone is looking at him, he could get paranoid. CARTA even said they wouldn't do that because it's too much of a liability."
Battersby said that Warren's subsequent suggestion of putting Patrick in a home for those with disabilities was also out of the question.
"On January 10, Jason Warren suggested that I might consider moving my son to Tennessee and sticking him in a group home," Battersby said. "I was disgusted at that suggestion. Putting my son in a group home is not an option, period."
Battersby has attended every commission meeting since Jan. 17 asking that the commissioners stick to what they've been doing for years in transporting his son, but says he received the letter mid-March that the services for Patrick would end on Friday, March 31.
"I'm not asking to break the law. I'm asking to simply change the rule or grandfather my son in," Battersby said. "Mr. Warren told me these rules have been in place for decades ... Well, change them. Get with the times. I don't think we're asking too much. They say people sometimes fall through the cracks, and I'm not going to let my son fall through the cracks."
Patrick Battersby also addressed the commission on March 21 asking for the issue to be reconsidered.
"Please don't take my ride away from me," Patrick said. "I've been riding for 25 years, and they've been real good to me."
Walker insists that the county has offered multiple solutions to the problem, and that the decision was made after Battersby didn't want to compromise.
"We did provide him a letter, and we'll be terminating that transportation on March 31," Walker said. "The folks with the Orange Grove facility here in Catoosa County gave a great presentation the other night during the commission meeting. We would be willing to take Patrick there because it's within our policy. We also tried to arrange to take him to the state line and then have Patrick transferred to the Aim Center by CARTA. Mr. Battersby wants to go another route, but I think we've done everything we can do. If they're not willing to take advantage of the services we provide or the alternatives we're offering, there isn't much else we can do."
Battersby says Orange Grove isn't a feasible option for Patrick because its work differs from that of the Aim Center. He said that such a switch in routine wouldn't benefit his son.
As for his son Patrick, Battersby says he's not really sure what the family's next course of action is.
"Where it goes from here, I truly don't know," Battersby said. "It's a sad day for us. They could change it in a heartbeat if they wanted to and we are sickly disappointed. It was never an issue for almost 25 years. They (Catoosa Trans-Aid) go to Chattanooga every day. ... They take blind people up there to learn Braille, which they should. They'll take somebody to Erlanger or Parkridge to see a doctor. But they won't take my son to the Aim Center anymore for treatment on his brain injury. We're just asking them to do what's right and proper, what they've been doing for 25 years."