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Brain Injury Help Line: 1-800-242-0030

4TH Annual Advocacy Day

“This, our fourth Annual Brain Injury Advocacy Day at the State House, is an opportunity to make a powerful statement about the needs of the brain injury community,” said Nicole Godaire, BIA-MA Chief Executive Officer.  “Among many other initiatives, in 1985, BIA-MA advocated for the establishment of the Statewide Head Injury Program (SHIP), the government program that funds community-based programs for persons with traumatic brain injury (TBI).  We gather today advocating for an increase of $2.5 million for SHIP, and to urge legislators to support the passage of the Cognitive Rehabilitation Bill, ensuring that commercial health insurance plans include coverage for cognitive rehabilitation.”

David Dwork, BIA-MA Board Chair, said, “Today is a great opportunity for all of you to become involved in advocating for yourselves and the thousands of other Massachusetts residents living with brain injury.  Legislators need to hear the unique personal stories of brain injury survivors in their districts and how the state can best address their needs.”

To help prepare the attendees for visits to their legislators’ offices later in the day, Senator Harriette Chandler, Representative Kimberly Ferguson, and Toni Wolf, Commissioner of the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC), offered their thoughts on the importance of advocacy, their experiences, and the work of BIA-MA.

Sen. Chandler has been deeply involved with the brain injury community for nearly a decade.  She was instrumental in creating the Massachusetts Brain Injury Commission, established in 2011 to study the needs of brain injury survivors in the state and recommend steps to provide services, which at the time were virtually nonexistent.

“Meeting today with your legislators puts a face on the needs of the brain injury community,” she said.  “To my colleagues in the House and Senate, when you or your staff are meeting with these advocates, please listen carefully to their needs.”  She added, “The work of the Commission, and our support for untiring efforts of BIA-MA, are just the beginning of our commitment to helping brain injury survivors rebuild their lives and reclaim their dreams to the best of their abilities.  I have made it a priority to work on behalf of their abilities.  I have made it a priority to work on behalf of survivors and families, and to support the BIA-MA.”

Rep. Ferguson said, “Welcome to the State House!  I applaud you for braving today’s weather to meet with your elected representatives.  You are all fighters, and I’m honored to stand among you.  I’m honored also to work closely with Senator Chandler to fight for services you need and deserve, including the Cognitive Rehabilitation Bill, which Senator Chandler and I co-filed.  Sharing your personal stories with our legislators helps them appreciate the need to move this vital bill, which costs the Commonwealth nothing, across the finish line.”

Commissioner Wolf said, “It is critically important to share your stories and be your own advocate.  MRC was recently awarded a federal grant to provide services for people with traumatic brain injury (TBI) and substance use disorder (SUD), in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, the Executive Office of Elder Affairs and BIA-MA.  This grant will build greater connections between the TBI and SUD treatment communities and bring attention to this important issue.”

Before visiting legisaltors’ offices, the gathering heard the personal stories of two brain injury survivors.  Roberto, 53, survived a TBI he suffered five years ago from a 25-foot fall at his work in the marine industry.  George, 39, survived a massive brain tumor four years ago.  Like Roberto, George struggles with multiple cognitive deficits, such as short-term memory loss, executive function and behavioral filter.  Today, following extensive cognitive rehabilitation, supportive families, and their participation in BIA-MA support groups and SHIP, both men are working to rebuild their lives.  “We brain injury survivors aren’t disabled”, George concluded, “rather, we’re differently abled.  People with brain injuries have the same hopes, dreams and aspirations as everyone else.”

For more information about Advocacy at BIA-MA, contact Kelly Buttiglieri at 508-475-0032 or kbuttiglieri@biama.org