Bill to aid brain injury victims OK'd

Reprinted with permission of
The Herald Journal, Friday, March 7, 2008

By Kim Burgess

Research shows that dealing with a traumatic brain injury can be especially difficult in rural areas, with few services and little public understanding of the condition.

To help change this situation, the Legislature approved a bill this week that assists people with TBIs.

HB174-S focuses on education professionals and the public, preventing TBI and supporting individuals with the condition. It would also develop a referral system to help individuals find services.

People with TBI are dealing with the long term effects of brain injuries sustained from automobile accidents, sports injuries, concussions caused by bomb blasts in the battlefield, and other brain trauma.

In 2005, 2,554 Utahns acquired these injuries.

Data from a pilot project in Cache Valley helped convince the Legislature to support HB174-S.

The effort, which also included sites in Washington County and the Uinta Basin, identified gaps in programs for individuals with TBI.

In Cache Valley, about 10 individuals with TBIs related their experiences to researchers at Utah State University's Center for Persons with Disabilities and several other organizations including Bear River Mental Health, Logan Regional Hospital and the Department of Workforce Services.

According to Sue Wildrick, the pilot's coordinator, the injured individuals generally received good treatment in metropolitan areas.

But when they returned home, "it was like they fell of the end of the world."

"One thing we found in the needs assessment was that a lot of (local) providers didn't have experiences with traumatic brain injuries," she said. "When they (the patients) went to find services, it was very difficult."

In collaboration with the state, the CPD identified national best practices for those with TBIs and plans to use the information in a plan for Cache County.

Already, the Cache Valley group has developed assessments, training tools and fliers on the condition and area service providers.

Wildrick imagines the efforts will expand the support of the legislature.

"This is a wonderful thing that occurred with this bill passed," Wildrick said. "With all the vets coming back from the war in Iraq, this (TBI) is increasing."

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