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The Nevada Independent

Embattled Nevada vaccine nonprofit director departs for new job in Tennessee

The Nashville-based nonprofit's announcement comes after the state terminated millions of dollars in grant agreements with Immunize Nevada in mid-March.
Tabitha Mueller
Tabitha Mueller
Health CareState Government

A Nashville-based mental health nonprofit has hired the former director of Immunize Nevada as its new executive director — meaning Nevada’s only statewide nonprofit focused on increasing immunizations is losing its leader as it deals with financial turmoil and the fallout of the state terminating millions of dollars worth of grant agreements.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Davidson County announced Monday that it had hired Sherilyn Duckworth as its new executive director, citing “her personal passion for the challenges people with mental illness face today combined with her professional experience leading similar organizations.”

“I want people in Middle Tennessee who are struggling with mental illness to know that you are not alone,” Duckworth said in the press release. “We are determined to shine a light down the dark path of mental health recovery. Together, we will continue to create a more compassionate and resilient community for everyone who calls Nashville home.”

The Nashville-based nonprofit’s announcement comes after the state of Nevada terminated millions of dollars in grant agreements with Immunize Nevada in mid-March. The termination followed a report of “possible fraudulent activities,” an inability to comply with federal grant regulations and inadequate financial management, including more than six figures worth of unpaid payments to a vendor and struggles to pay staff members that were first reported by The Nevada Independent. 

Immunize Nevada board members contacted by The Nevada Independent did not respond to voicemails requesting comment on the announcement from NAMI Davidson County and whether Duckworth would be facilitating a transition.

Duckworth did not immediately respond to a question from The Nevada Independent about whether the announcement marked the end of her time with Immunize Nevada or if she would be helping with a transition. NAMI Davidson County Board Chairman Matt Loftus and the vice president of the board did not return a voicemail with questions about whether he or other board members were aware of the financial troubles of the Nevada organization Duckworth has been leading.

NAMI Davidson County, which is partially funded through a grant from the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, cited Duckworth’s passion for mental health and founding of the nonprofit, A Friend of Mind, through which she led suicide prevention training, as part of her qualifications. 

A Facebook post from Duckworth indicates she dissolved her nonprofit in August 2023.

Property records show Duckworth purchased a home in Tennessee for $750,000 at the end of December. Asked about the decision to move to Tennessee and work remotely in mid-March, Duckworth said in an earlier interview that the Immunize Nevada board agreed she could work remotely; she also has a home in Nevada.

Ongoing issues in Nevada

Records from the state of Nevada indicate that at least four Immunize Nevada staff members have reached out with complaints about not being paid since news of the grant terminations became public. 

In a text message conversation last week, Duckworth confirmed that employees, including herself, “have not been paid in months.”

“Immunize Nevada currently owes me tens of thousands [of] dollars,” Duckworth texted, adding that the organization’s bank account was frozen and lost additional grant funding following reporting from The Nevada Independent.

The state’s termination letter in March indicated that it would notify the Department of the Treasury and the Nevada Attorney General’s Office of the “possible fraudulent activities” outlined in a site visit report.

The attorney general’s office did not immediately offer comment on the existence of an investigation or what happens if Immunize Nevada does not repay $292,000 it received in grants from the state but still needs to pay out to vendors. 


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