An Interview with Amy Colberg: Reauthorization of the Traumatic Brain Injury Act

Apr 2, 2012 by

Michael F. Shaughnessy

  1. Amy, first of all, what is your exact title, and what would you say you do at the Brain Injury Association of America?

My exact title is: Director of Government Affairs

I am responsible for pursing BIAA’s public policy priorities as identified in the organization’s strategic plan. I also represent BIAA on Capitol Hill and to federal agencies, related organization, coalitions and grassroots advocates.

  1. Now, I understand that a bill re-authorizing services for Traumatic Brain Injury is coming up. Can you give us any details?

On Wednesday, March 21, 2012, Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ) and Rep. Todd Russell Platts (R-PA) introduced the Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Act, H.R. 4238.

Sen. Harkin (affiliation?) and Sen. Hatch (affiliation?) are our champions in the Senate.

  1. What kinds of services would this bill provide?

Congress first passed the Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Act in 1996 to help individuals with TBI, and their families, gain access to rehabilitation, long-term care, and community and family supports often needed for return to home, work, school and community activities. The law has been reauthorized and amended twice, in 2000 and 2005. The TBI Act currently authorizes:

  • Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to assist states in developing and expanding service delivery capacity for individuals with traumatic brain injury and their families;
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to conduct surveillance, prevention and public education programs;
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH) to conduct of basic and applied research in TBI; and
  • HRSA to make grants for the Protection and Advocacy for Traumatic Brain Injury (PATBI) program, which provides critical advocacy services to ensure that people with a TBI live full and independent lives free from abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation.

Currently, 21 states and territories are receiving funding from the HRSA Federal TBI Program to develop service infrastructure and to expand service capacity to address unique problems associated with TBI. The CDC has classified TBI as a serious public health problem in the United States, contributing to a substantial number of deaths and cases of permanent disability. CDC’s research and programs work to prevent TBI and help people better recognize, respond, and recover if a TBI occurs. The CDC has produced a number of reports and guidelines relating to veterans with TBI, sports concussions, and response guidelines for educators. PATBI operates advocacy programs in all States, Territories and the District of Columbia.

  1. I believe TBI is covered under IDEA ( Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ) but what about adults?
  2. The TBI Act is the only piece of federal legislation that provides services and supports to all individuals with brain injury.

What are some of the main services that you provide?

BIAA operates a toll-free information and resource service, known as the National Brain Injury Information Center, and provides training and certification for brain injury professionals and direct care workers through our Academy of Certified Brain Injury Specialists. BIAA also hosts nearly two dozen informational webinars for family caregivers, clinicians and researchers

  1. Amy, I have visited your website, and must compliment you on its comprehensive ness- but for our readers, could you just provide an overview?

BIAA’s website provides information and resources about brain injuries. The Brain Injury Association of America is the voice of brain injury. We are dedicated to increasing access to quality health care and raising awareness and understanding of brain injury through advocacy, education and research. With a nationwide network of state affiliates, local chapters and support groups, we provide help, hope and healing for individuals who live with brain injury, their families and the professionals who serve them.

  1. Who should readers contact in terms of their Senators and Congressmen/Congresswomen to lend support for this bill?

Individuals can contact the House Energy and Commerce members to support H.R. 4238. Also, they can contact their Representative to co-sponsor H.R. 4238. The TBI Act has not been introduced in the Senate yet but should be soon. Once the bill is introduced in the Senate individuals can contact the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions members and their Senators to co-sponsor the bill.

  1. What have I neglected to ask?

BIAA’s proposed changes to the TBI Act

  • Create a funding formula that allows for all States to receive Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grants after the program reaches a specific appropriation. Consistency would allow states to plan a sustainable program for years in advance.
  • Include “service delivery” and “case management services” under allowable uses for HRSA State grants. As indicated earlier, many states are interested in taking the next step to serve individuals with TBI.
  • Authorize funding to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for research on children and youth with TBI; rehabilitation, short-term/long-term outcomes; identification/assessment issues.
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