New Provider Merakey Offers Supports with Holistic Health Focus

By Tinnesia Snyder

About the Author

Tinnesia Snyder is the vice president of Managed Long-Term Support Services at Merakey, formerly known as NHS Human Services. Beginning her career as a direct care worker with Merakey 25 years ago, she has held various roles throughout the company in operational and senior executive leadership. Tinnesia is experienced at developing and running custom programs for individuals of all ages in areas of behavioral health, intellectual and developmental disabilities, elder care and autism services. She currently leads Merakey operations in Pennsylvania, California, and Tennessee. Tinnesia holds a bachelor’s degree from Thiel College in Greenville, PA, and earned her MBA with a specialization in healthcare management from the University of Phoenix in 2007. She lives in Pittsburgh, PA, with her husband and three daughters.

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For 50 years, Merakey has been a leading nonprofit provider of developmental, behavioral health, elder care, and education services offering a broad range of integrated assistance to individuals and communities across the country. Merakey, which operates in 11 states including Tennessee now,firmly believes that it is every individual’s right to achieve growth, dignity, and fulfillment in their lives. Different from many providers, Merakey is very comfortable with financial challenges, dwindling resources and comprehensive needs of consumers, always pursuing excellence in care despite any complexities.  We do not have to refer individuals out of our system for additional services, but rather we design a system around that person.

Our name, Merakey, is inspired by a modern Greek word, meaning to put something of yourself into your work, or to do something with soul, creativity or love. This concept illustrates the compassion and integrity that underscores everything we do. Fairly new to Tennessee, our organization is entirely committed to developing innovative solutions and models of care for individuals in need of holistic services here.

Merakey’s journey to become a provider in Tennessee began by talking with valued stakeholders including our first collaborative funder, BlueCare of Tennessee. This process allowed us to determine how best to share our expertise and experience, and how to tailor our programs to meet the specific needs of individuals in Tennessee. Merakey’s first office opened in Brentwood, TN, almost a year ago, with appropriate licenses to provide personal care/personal assistance, community integration, independent living skills, specialized consultation and training (behavior supports) and employment services through the ECF Choices Waiver program, TennCare Choices program and private pay options.

We are currently offering supports and services in Davidson, Williamson, Rutherford and Maury counties.

In addition, we also maintain a license from the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse providing behavior supports through the TennCare managed care organizations (BlueCare, Amerigroup and United Healthcare) and commercial insurance. Merakey is also in the process of implementing a program unique to Merakey called “Follow-Up to Hospitalization.” This program is designed to reduce high rates of readmissions following inpatient behavioral health hospital stays. Individuals are offered an appointment with Merakey staff members within seven days and again within 30 days post discharge, to review their discharge instructions, and to provide supports for transition into the community. The “Follow-Up to Hospitalization” program has been successfully rolled out in Louisiana.

As we learn more about Tennessee, we hope to introduce Dual Diagnosis Treatment Teams (DDTT) to care for individuals having intellectual and/or development disabilities and a mental health dual diagnosis. Community-based and delivered through an integrated multidisciplinary team approach, DDTT is one of our most effective and sought-after programs.  Our Dual Diagnosis Treatment Teams each include a psychiatrist, a team leader (licensed professional counselor, licensed social worker, licensed clinical social worker, or behavior specialist professional, depending on the funder), behavior specialist, registered nurse, recovery specialist and pharmacist consultant.

Over the past two decades, states and providers have been challenged to find the most efficient and effective ways to provide integrated services for individuals with a dual diagnosis of IDD/MH. This challenge is compounded in large, rural areas where trained professionals are scarce. Integration of services for individuals with a dual IDD/MH diagnosis has consistently lagged behind the development of other services across the United States. Our leadership recognized this widespread gap in care and embraced the challenge, allowing us to become highly skilled in the area of IDD/MH dual diagnosis. Merakey personnel presented information about DDTT at the National Council for Behavioral Health held in Nashville in March. We have found that the lack of dual diagnosis treatment for individuals with IDD/MH holds true in Tennessee as well as many other parts of the nation, and therefore we are exploring opportunities to help those in need.

Our first year as a provider in Tennessee has been a true honor for Merakey. With continuing support from our Advisory Board, funders, families, community members and other stakeholders, we plan to eventually expand our service offerings and grow our footprint beyond Middle Tennessee to additional parts of the state.

With our experience, expertise and compassion, we empower everyone within our communities to reach their fullest potential. For more information about Merakey and the services provided in Tennessee, please visit Merakey.org or contact our Tennessee office at 615-370-9337.


Thank you, Tinnesia, for sharing information about your organization’s background and the plans for helping individuals with disabilities and their families here in Tennessee. I was particularly delighted to hear about the Dual Diagnosis Treatment Teams, because as the parent of a young adult who has a dual diagnosis and as the program coordinator for the IDD Toolkit Project (www.iddtoolkit.org), I know how difficult it can be to find appropriate care for this population. I look forward to seeing Merakey’s work in this area. If you have questions you can always contact me at janet.shouse@vumc.org. Thanks for reading.