Georgians With Severe Traumatic Brain Injury Lost In Inadequate System

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Brain Injury

Georgia is not the place to get long-term help for a traumatic brain injury. Just ask Ben Fuller, the young father in North Georgia who, after being injured in a car accident, has spent more than two years shuttled between hospitals, unable to return to home. During his odyssey, more than 117 Georgia nursing homes have denied him admission because staff wasn't trained to handle his behavioral issues. More than anything Ben wants to be with his family, yet there are insufficient community services to support him there. He is not alone. Up to 18,000 people are suffering similar fates, according to a new report that evaluates the costs and gaps in care for Georgians with neurobehavioral issues.

The study, "Georgia's Neurobehavioral Crisis: Lack of Coordinated Care, Inappropriate Institutionalizations," reveals the alarming extent to which Georgians with traumatic brain injuries fail to receive appropriate care. The report was conducted by the Brain and Spinal Injury Trust Fund Commission, the state's only funding source dedicated to meeting the needs of people with traumatic brain injury (TBI).

At the heart of the problem is Georgia's lack of a coordinated system of care for people suffering from neurobehavioral issues stemming from TBIs. Too often, people with TBI are not identified and diagnosed properly, do not receive basic rehabilitation and end up in nursing homes, out-of-state programs, state hospitals, prison or become homeless-at tremendous cost to individuals, families and the state. For example, when a person with a severe TBI is sent to a state mental hospital -- at a cost of $178,000 a year - both the person and the facility suffer. The facility is not equipped to provide the type of medical care needed for neurobehavioral rehabilitation.

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The report recommends that existing funds can be better spent by redirecting people to more appropriate and cost-effective care in their communities, not in institutions.

The 50+ page report, which includes numerous case studies, found:

-- Many Georgians with severe TBI must seek care in other states because specialized services and critical community supports do not exist in this state.

-- Not enough health professionals are trained in how to provide services to people with neurobehavioral issues, resulting in inappropriate treatment and higher costs of care.

-- Many Georgians with TBI have not been identified, diagnosed and treated.

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