Posted April 20, 2009
The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates as many as 35,000 Idahoans may be living with a severe traumatic brain injury, yet Idaho has few community resources to assist TBI patients after they leave acute-care facilities and return home to live.
Many patients—with health insurance benefits exhausted and unable to work full time—are left with limited funds to cover immediate needs, such as housing or transportation costs, said Russell Spearman, M.Ed., a senior research associate in the Institute of Rural Health at Idaho State University-Boise.
Under the direction of Spearman, Idaho State University and the IRH have been awarded a $1 million grant by the Maternal and Child Health Bureau of the Health Resources and Services Administration to develop a support network for TBI patients and their families throughout the Gem State. A key component is the creation of a trust fund to help ease the transition from acute care to independent living.
“Our intent is to assist people who’ve experienced a traumatic brain injury over that first hurdle—to provide financial assistance to help them begin living independently,” said Spearman. Once the trust fund is in place, applicants would be awarded funds for a limited period of time after exhausting insurance benefits and other community resources.
Spearman and his research team will identify possible financial sources for the trust fund, which will have to be approved by the Idaho Legislature. Nineteen states have similar trust funds in place, and many are funded through motor vehicle bureaus.
Other goals include providing a support network for Idaho military personnel returning from active duty and their families, in part through TBI educational seminars.
Traumatic brain injury has become the signature wound of Iraqi war veterans, said Spearman, who notes many veterans and families need knowledge about how to live with a brain injury.
Spearman envisions creating a support network that could build upon the Institute of Rural Health’s Traumatic Brain Injury Virtual Program Center while utilizing social networking sites, such as Facebook or Twitter. To learn more about the TBI Virtual Center, visit http://www.idahotbi.org/.
“The work Russ does expands horizons and increases public awareness about traumatic brain injury,” said Mary Kelly, the transition assistance advisor to the Idaho National Guard.
The grant, which began April 1, will run for four years. It is Idaho’s fourth consecutive traumatic brain injury grant award since April 2000, said Spearman.
For more information about the grant, contact Russell Spearman at (208) 373-1773 or firstname.lastname@example.org.