Brain injury group receives funding

Thanks to a provincial organization with Prince George connections, community groups supporting people with brain injuries can expect an influx of

$3 million over the next three years.

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Alison Hagreen, executive director of the Prince George Brain Injured Group, was in Victoria Wednesday afternoon when Health Minister Terry Lake made the funding announcement for the Brain Injury Alliance.

Hagreen, who is a director with the Northern Brain Injury Association helped form the alliance's working committee in June 2014. By October they presented a proposal to government about improving B.C.'s services.

"We have carried on without letting up at all since then. And now it seems that our tenacity is paying off and we are quite overwhelmed," wrote Hagreen in an email about the alliance's work.

"People with brain injury across the province will have enhanced services in the very near future. It's just too amazing! Right time, right place, government looking for a good news story, a good plan and dogged tenacity."

The $3 million will be spread over two stages.

To start, 16 community non-profits, including the Northern Brain Injury Association, will get $10,000 to help with operational costs.

During the second stage, brain-injury organizations will have to apply for funding for any number of services, including courses that address brain-injury education, emotional management or programs like art therapy or drop-in social groups.

"Brain injury has the ability to shatter lives," said Lake in a press release. "Left untreated, it can lead to issues that affect the whole community, which is why the funding provided to the Brain Injury Alliance is so important to make sure help goes to those who need it."

According to the alliance's proposal, the province has about 180,000 brain injury survivors and every year there are about 22,000 new brain injury cases in the province.

"When untreated, the cost to taxpayers in health care, lost wages, increased reliance on social welfare, justice costs and the devastating impact on families, is nearly incalculable," the document said. "People living with brain injury are often the most complex and difficult to serve."

Men are twice as likely to suffer brain injuries. Those at highest risk are men aged 16 to 24, First Nations and seniors.

"Data demonstrates that brain injury is a permanent chronic condition that plays a significant 'gateway' role in the development of other costly health and social issues," the document said, citing the following numbers: 53 per cent of homeless people live with brain injury, 82 per cent of B.C's prison population lives with an untreated disability due to traumatic brain injury; and people are up to seven times more likely to develop mental illness after an injury.

The alliance said in 2014 that it counted 21 local brain injury groups across the province, down by more than half since 2002 when there were 45.

The Brain Injury Alliance's four founding organizations include Fraser Valley, Kamloops, Prince George and the Northern Brain Injury Association.

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