Millions of Americans with traumatic brain injuries don't get the support they need, and the US Department of Health says that all states should be screening to identify TBI. So why did DHHS stop printing informational handouts on TBI last year?
Because unidentified TBI creates such serious and widespread consequences to society, DHHS Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) says screening is critical to getting the proper support to all those who need it. That includes those who suffer mild TBIs and their families. The latest research shows that even a single concussion can lead to brain damage and long-term effects like anxiety and depression - even early death.
But states say there's not enough funding to keep up with the need, especially with so many war veterans returning home with TBIs. This may explain why some state agencies fail to screen for TBI - and why others even try to deny TBI diagnoses. Tragically this denial creates more problems and leads to many victims being misdiagnosed and mistreated in ways that further traumatize them. Far too many end up in psyche wards and inappropriately medicated with drugs that cause even more brain damage.
As a family member of one who suffered a mild TBI, I looked into this issue because there is no one trained to help mild TBI survivors in most of my state, and there are NO handouts or screening tests available at my local health and social services agencies. Even though the NIH offers up to ten of its 2002 overview of TBI, these are a bit outdated on the issue of concussions and long-term effects.
We know that keeping the public in the dark won't help, and DHHS could do more to get the word out. Tell DHHS to provide the public with updated brochures on TBI!
We, the undersigned, say the public needs access to free and current information on TBI. Therefore DHHS/HRSA should provide updated handouts to the public and all state agencies, and the NIH should update the brochures on TBI it sends out.
Dr. Wayne Gordon's 2008 web cast presentation, available on the HRSA website, could not be any more clear about how important it is to society and individuals that agencies and schools identify all those who sustain traumatic brain injuries. It is also crucial, says Gordon, that these individuals get the proper follow-up evaluation and treatment.
He points out that around 50% of those dealing with substance abuse issues have had a brain injury, and many children diagnosed with learning disabilities and ADHD are actually suffering the effects of TBI. Far too many are misdiagnosed and end up in psychiatric wards and improperly treated, often with drugs that can make them much worse.
Even worse, some of those misidentified and misdiagnosed end up committing crimes and/or homeless. [A transcript of Gordon's presentation is found here: http://webcast.hrsa.gov/archives/mchb/tbi/may2008/tbimay2008transcript.htm]
Although HRSA has given TBI grants to states for several years, many are still not properly screening for TBI - as HRSA recommended in 2006.
Some state agencies now have to pay private publishing companies for brochures on TBI and related issues, and this has often resulted in no handouts on TBI being made available to the public at all.
Unless the public becomes aware of the importance of screening and proper follow-up to head injuries, it's less likely TBI survivors will be provided with the crucial help they and society need. What is particularly needed is a basic guideline for identifying TBI and a simple screening test for agencies to use.
We request that the US Department of Health reprint updated, free publications on TBI and make these and free screening materials available to the public and all state agencies.