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Montgomery County Mother Honored as Mother of the Year for Her Fight to Obtain Healthcare for Her Son


Tennessee Justice CenterCunningham, TN – Nancy Hollis of Cunningham is being honored as a 2011 Mother of the Year by the Tennessee Justice Center (TJC). The award is in recognition of her persistence in battling to obtain medical services for her son and for her extraordinary commitment to the healthcare of children and families throughout Tennessee. Ms. Hollis is one of six women from across the state who are receiving the 2011 TJC Mother of the Year award. The awards will be presented on May 5th during a reception in Nashville.

Nancy Hollis with her son Dusty. (Photo by Shea Halliburton)

Nancy Hollis with her son Dusty. (Photo by Shea Halliburton)

Since the death of Jim, the father of Dusty Hollis and husband of Ms. Hollis, Dusty has been his mother’s life. When Dusty, now 26, was about three years old, his doctor told his parents that he had severe mental delays. He is autistic and has 250 to 300 seizures each month, some of which can become life-threatening. After the worst seizures, Dusty is in such excruciating pain that he bashes his head against any hard object he can reach. Because Dusty has seizures throughout his brain, the only available medical intervention would be to sever the connections in Dusty’s brain and hope that he would be able to learn to walk and talk again. Ms. Hollis and her late husband, Jim, decided not to do that.

Despite the suffering Dusty’s illnesses cause him, he loves music, bouncing on a trampoline, and swimming. In the summer he loves getting into his “gator”, a utility cart specially equipped for Dusty to ride the trails around his home.
Dusty has TennCare and is on the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (DIDD) waiver, a program that allows people with developmental delays to get services in their homes rather than moving to an institution. Due to the unpredictability and severity of his seizures, Dusty needs two personal assistants at all times. At least one of the assistants must be tethered to him by a strap attached to his waist to prevent Dusty from falling and injuring himself when he has a seizure.

In 2010, DIDD announced that all enrollees’ services would be reduced to one personal assistant whose hours would be limited to 50 per week. Ms. Hollis was told that Dusty could live in a “supported living” home, but that she couldn’t live with him.  First, she lost her husband.
Now, she was afraid she might lose her son too

Dr. Jeri Fitzpatrick, Dustin’s psychiatrist at Vanderbilt Center for Excellence, asked TJC to help her stop DIDD from reducing for Dustin and her other patients.  Dr. Fitzpatrick warned DIDD that Dustin and many others affected by the cuts would not be able to live long without services. TJC’s intervention with state and federal officials blocked the proposed reduction.  Currently, Dustin is still receiving the care he needs and is still able to live at home, the only home he has ever known. Ms. Hollis calls TJC a friend and guardian angel in disguise. “I will be forever grateful for having crossed paths with TJC,” she said.

“Nancy Hollis’s devotion to her son and her persistence in fighting for what he needs is an incredibly inspiring example of how Tennessee mothers bravely stand up for the rights of their children who are sick or have disabilities,” said Gordon Bonnyman, executive director at the Tennessee Justice Center (TJC), a non-profit public interest law and advocacy firm based in Nashville. He added, “Our annual Mothers of the Year recognition acknowledges the struggles, sacrifices and devotion of caregivers who face many obstacles in obtaining the care that their children need, and taxpayers have already paid for them to receive. Their courage and persistence is unyielding.”

TJC will host its annual Mothers of the Year Awards Reception on Thursday, May 5th, 2011, at the Pinnacle Building in downtown Nashville, from 5:00pm to 6:30pm. This event is open to the public. Join TJC as it celebrates and honors mothers, foster mothers, and grandmothers from across the state. For more information or to RSVP, please email or call 615-255-0331.

About The Tennessee Justice Center

The Tennessee Justice Center (TJC) is a non-profit public interest law and advocacy firm serving Tennessee’s families. It gives priority to policy issues and civil cases in which the most basic necessities of life are at stake and where advocacy can benefit needy families statewide. TJC works to empower its clients by holding government accountable for its policies and actions.  TJC was established in 1996 and is located at 301 Charlotte Avenue, Nashville, TN. For additional information about the Tennessee Justice Center and its services, visit or call 615-255-0331.




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