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Connie Winchester

Connie Winchester, along with her husband Jeff, lovingly opened their Dickson home in 2006 to care for their five grandchildren, ranging in age from 7- to 11-years-old. Connie wanted her grandchildren to have a vibrant childhood so in 2012, Connie and Jeff decided to adopt Krystina and her four siblings permanently into their home.

Gabriel, Cheyenne, Christian, Krystina, and Siera love playing outside on the Winchester’s property in the hills of rural middle Tennessee. They play basketball, swing, and play around their aunt’s creek on an adjacent property.

Connie knows that making sure they have a normal life and a happy childhood means making sure they have access to health care so that they can overcome shadows from their past and can grow and thrive. Two of the siblings had been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of their experiences before coming to the Winchester’s home so Connie has worked hard to ensure that her children get the care they need.

All of the children have health coverage through TennCare, however, TennCare does not always pay for the care they need. In 2010, their doctor ordered specialized behavioral health services so that the children could get the treatment they desperately needed. All but one of the children were denied the needed care, including Krystina.

Krystina is a sweet and creative 8-year-old. She enjoys stringing beads, coloring, and playing dress-up. Last year, Krystina was in severe need of a specialized behavioral therapy because of the intensity of her condition. Connie spent a great amount of time and effort getting this important treatment for Krystina. However, after the fourth denial, which occurred without proper notice, Connie was at her wit’s end.

Not knowing what to do, Connie called the Tennessee Justice Center. TJC explained to her that she has the right to receive a letter if TennCare was not going to pay for a healthcare service that Krystina needs. TJC alerted Krystina’s TennCare HMO about the mistake, and within a couple of weeks, Krystina began receiving the treatment she needed to thrive.

Connie is very thankful to TJC for the help she received, which ensured that Krystina could receive the necessary care. Today, Connie continues to advocate for the health care needs of all of her children so that they can grow and flourish, but Connie also says “I want all children to receive the emotional and mental health care that they need.”

Connie’s untiring advocacy enabled TJC to achieve a great result for Krystina. For Connie’s commitment and perseverance for her children, TJC is honored to award Connie as a 2013 TJC Mother of the Year.

Photo credit: Lori Israel

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