Lawmakers discussed a bill that would provide various services for Oregonians suffering from brain injuries during a Senate Committee on Human Services meeting on Monday.
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Senate Bill 420 would direct the Department of Human Services to provide specified services to individuals with brain injuries and convene a brain injury advisory committee.
Sen. Deb Patterson (D-Salem) testified in support of the bill, saying the issue is close to her heart. She said her uncle suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) in a motorcycle accident when he was 16. She said he struggled to understand what was happening around him. And her parents struggled to make sure he remained safe, had his medications appropriately managed, had a safe place to live, had vocational and recreational opportunities, and had transportation to medical and rehabilitation appointments.
“It was a herculean task, and there are many more individuals and families facing similar challenges,” Patterson said. “It’s estimated that every year, approximately 17,000 Oregonians sustain a brain injury. Life after a brain injury is not only difficult for the individual who experiences the injury, but also for the friends and family who are supporting them. Many don’t know where to turn for support.”
David Kracke, the state’s brain injury advocate coordinator, said up to 84,000 Oregonians live with chronic effects from brain injury.
“It is a huge problem,” Kracke said. “It is geographically spread out across the entire state. It is a bipartisan issue. There is widespread support for this bill. We have endorsement and/or support from the League of Women Voters, the Oregon Nurses Association, the Oregon Alliance to End Violence Against Women, Brain Injury Connections Northwest, Brain Rehabilitation Network, the Brain Injury Alliance of Oregon, and many others.”
The bill also has support from several lawmakers. Sen. James Manning (D-Eugene) joined Patterson in testifying in support of SB 420. He noted that the initiative could include provisions related to medical and therapeutic supports, employment services, housing disability services, social support services, and veterans services. He also said the data representing those suffering from TBI does not include many Oregonians who do not report their injuries.
“The numbers are not clear, but we know that there is a need,” Manning said. “This bill will take care of that, or get it on a pathway to address this very critical need.”
Sen. Kathleen Taylor (D-Milwaukie) also testified in support of SB 420. She said she would be surprised if anybody in the legislature would not want to support it.
“I know we’re heading into potentially some tough financial challenges with the budget, however we heard the statistics about the need for this,” Taylor said. “Pretty much everybody knows somebody that’s been in this situation with TBI. We know this is happening, and we know how incredibly difficult it is to navigate the medical environment, just in general. And to get public services.”
Patterson said 61% of Oregonians with brain injuries report feeling that they have not received needed services.
“Senate Bill 420 would establish the brain injury resource facilitation program to connect survivors of brain injury to appropriate life-saving services and supports,” Patterson said. “Oregon is one of only 11 states that does not have a brain injury resource facilitation program.”
No action was taken on the bill, but Taylor urged the committee to move the bill forward during future hearings.
“If this does make it through your committee, and goes down to Ways and Means, I’ll continue to advocate for this in Ways and Means,” Taylor said. “Because I think it’s much more prevalent than perhaps we’ve realized.”