The Tennessee Justice Center & Me
by Tieranny Woods
I am Tieranny Woods, one of the new Belle H. Bennett Fellows. My site placement is the Tennessee Justice Center. The Tennessee Justice Center (TJC) is a non-profit law firm that provides free legal services to vulnerable Tennesseans. TJC does this in three ways: 1) by helping people get needed health services, 2) by providing trainings, resources, and technical assistance to health care providers, social workers, and community groups, so that they can understand and use the laws about Tennessee health care programs, and, 3) by holding government accountable and being an advocate for Tennesseans who do not have the legal clout to speak for themselves.
At TJC, I serve as a client advocate and will be primarily working with clients that are seeking CHOICES services or who are having issues with their current status under the CHOICES program. CHOICES is Tennessee’s long-term care program for people over 65 and people with disabilities. I will also be serving in other ways, such as taking initial intake calls (screening the clients for their particular needs and gathering personal information from them) and helping out in other areas as needed.
At the TJC I hope to gain valuable knowledge about Tennessee’s health care system so that once I leave TJC, I can continue to provide support for those who may be suffering due to Tennessee health care laws. I know TJC will give me the experience necessary to further pursue school and work in the legal field. At TJC I am learning the importance of intersectionality and my privilege in relation to other people. Many clients that we seek services for are disabled and unable to speak for themselves; they have caretakers that serve as Power of Attorney in order to make decisions for them. There are other clients who are unable to understand certain paper work due to their age or education levels. These are oftentimes things that I do not have to think about. I know that I am going to encounter rough patches at TJC. There are going to be times where my emotions are touched and I will become overwhelmed by a client’s story. I also know that there will be times where I am unable to get a client the services they need due to the laws on the books. But, I feel that this is what is great about the Tennessee Justice Center. They are constantly seeking ways in which they can advocate for changes in Tennessee’s unjust laws so that every Tennessean can be able to have adequate health care. There is a slight fear that I will not be good at my job, but I know that I will get plenty of help from my coworkers. I am excited knowing that what I am doing is fulfilling and that I am making a valuable impact on people.
Tieranny Woods is a 2016 graduate of Vanderbilt University. She is currently a Belle H. Bennett fellow at Scarritt Bennett Center where she is exploring social justice at the Tennessee Justice Center.