Understanding Traumatic Brain Injury

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by the California Department of Rehabilitation

Traumatic brain injury, TBI for short, is a forceful impact to the head that disrupts the normal functioning of the brain, resulting in an array of physical, mental, emotional and intellectual symptoms and disabilities.

TBIs occur more frequently than you might anticipate. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 2.5 million people sustained a TBI in 2010, caused primarily by falls, motor vehicle accidents, and assaults.

The effects of a brain injury are as varied as the people who sustain them. Short- and long-term symptoms run the gamut, including dizziness, headaches, memory loss, and fatigue. They can appear immediately or may surface after a few days or even a few weeks.

Medical personnel classify a TBI into categories – from mild to severe. The severity of a brain injury is determined by eye, motor and verbal responses. Loss of consciousness is a serious symptom. When an individual remains unconscious for days, weeks or months, it usually indicates a severe brain injury.

The TBI program at the Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) consists of seven nonprofits that provide services directly to persons with TBI, their families or caregivers, and other members of the TBI community. The nonprofits are located across the state: two in Northern California, three in Central California, and two in Southern California. A complete list of these seven sites can be found on the Traumatic Brain Injury Service Provider page of the DOR’s website.

The seven nonprofits receive funding from the Traumatic Brain Injury Fund, which gets a small percentage distribution from the State Penalty Fund. With this grant money, the nonprofits provide five core services, as follows:
•    Community reintegration
•    Supported living
•    Vocational support
•    Public and professional education
•    Information and referral

Eligibility for services is established through an intake and assessment process. During this process, staff gathers information to determine whether other potential avenues of assistance, such as veteran’s benefits or enrollment in Medi-Cal or a waiver program, may be applicable.

Traumatic brain injury is a complex injury that touches all communities. It affects men and women, every income level, and all age groups – from children to the elderly. Prevention is the best tool. Beyond that, early identification and treatment are the keys to assisting TBI survivors to manage their injury and maximize their ability to function independently in their communities.

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