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Julie Drouhard

Knoxville resident Julie Drouhard is an avid reader and gardener. She is also a loving mother of six who has shown tremendous dedication and courage in advocating for her children’s well-being.

In 2012, Julie’s son Joey needed treatment when he began displaying violent behaviors. Joey, now nineteen, was born with autism and intellectual disabilities. Joey is a caring and vibrant young man who enjoys playing basketball—he has a great jump shot. He also loves listening to music, especially the Beatles and Bruce Springsteen.

The violent behaviors were unusual for Joey. Staying at home was no longer safe for Joey or his family, and Julie knew that he needed comprehensive treatment. Julie recalls, “I knew that my son was not well; he was not acting like the real Joey anymore. I was determined to fight to help him get the care he needed. All I wanted was to have my son back.”

Joey’s doctors said that Laurel Heights, a residential treatment center in Atlanta, was the best place for Joey to get the help he needed. Unfortunately, his TennCare HMO said that he did not need that treatment. Joey could not wait for the care, so his parents paid the expensive fees to have Joey treated while they sorted out the insurance issues. Knowing that their resources would not last forever, Joey’s mother, Julie, immediately began advocating for her child. She filed an emergency TennCare appeal and called the Tennessee Justice Center for help.

Since they were paying privately for his treatment, Joey’s appeal had to be decided quickly. There was not enough time to find a pro bono attorney in Julie’s area to help them with the hearing. TJC staff helped Julie prepare for Joey’s hearing, telling her what to expect, how to gather medical evidence of Joey’s need for the treatment, and how to share that evidence with the judge. Julie is not a lawyer and had never been part of a legal proceeding like this before. She says the Tennessee Justice Center’s help in preparing for her hearing was essential.

At the hearing, Julie was nervous but absolutely committed to fighting for Joey. She represented her son with amazing courage. After hearing about Joey’s condition and testimony from Joey’s doctors and his mother, his TennCare HMO agreed that Joey needed residential treatment. Julie credits her support system for her success at the hearing—her husband, Joey’s case manager, his providers, staff at Laurel Heights, and the Tennessee Justice Center.

Julie’s courage and dedication to her son were clearly extraordinary. Because of her advocacy, Joey was able to get the residential treatment he needs and now he is back home with his family. For her amazing courage and commitment to her son, TJC is delighted to recognize Julie Drouhard as a Mother of the Year.

Photo credit: Mark Mosrie

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