In the last year we have heard over and over about all of the state’s budget cuts and how they will affect Montanans, but what we have not heard about is the new challenges that brain injury survivors and their families will be facing.
These budget cuts may be necessary, but they are affecting much needed services and ultimately hurting many of the people that we work with. As a part of these cuts, the Brain Injury Alliance of Montana (BIAMT) was recently notified that the funding for our Brain Injury Help Line (BIHL) is being canceled at the end of March.
We took our first BIHL in 2006 and since then we have helped thousands of Montanans and their families that have been impacted by brain injury. We may not be able to change the cancellation of the BIHL contract, but we can be a voice to show just how much cutting a help line that is devoted to helping brain injury survivors will hurt our state.
Most people don’t know this, but Montana toggles between 2nd and 3rd in the nation per capita for brain injury related deaths. This is really sad and it shows just how much we need to push brain injury awareness and prevention.
In addition to these individuals that are dying, on average 33 Montanans sustain a brain injury and live each day. These are tough statistics that prove that we live in a state that works and plays hard and also statistics that show just how necessary having the Alliance and the BIHL is for those that are somehow impacted by brain injury.
Hopefully awareness about the reduction in services for brain injury survivors will make some changes and possibly bring in some funding for our organization.
Here at the Alliance every day we see how much brain injury affects people in our state. The statistics of individuals that are incarcerated, homeless, seniors, Native Americans that are living with some type of brain injury is staggering. Many of the mental health disorders and behavioral issues of individuals in our society can be traced back to one or more brain injuries.
We are also seeing a huge cultural shift in how people see brain injury. With all of the national news about CTE, sports are finally making choices that will help provide safety to athletes at all ages. In the past people were afraid to mention that they received a brain injury, because they felt that those that there around them would assume that they had brain damage.
Every brain injury, including concussions, has some type of brain damage, but for minor injuries the damage might be temporary, and with proper recovery and treatment, it may not have long-term symptoms. Anyone who has ever had a brain injury understands exactly what is meant when brain injuries are called the “invisible injuries.” You look the same, and everything on the surface seems normal, but there is something different that can’t always be pinned-down.
As I mentioned, March is brain injury awareness month and here at the Brain Injury Alliance of Montana (BIAMT) we do everything that we can to help spread awareness and advocacy about brain injury.
To help give survivors a voice and to raise awareness, we are kicking off our Unmasking Brain Injury in Montana roadshow. Unmasking Brain Injury is a public awareness project. The mission of Unmasking Brain Injury is to demonstrate the prevalence of brain injury.
We aim to give survivors a voice and the means to educate others of what it’s like to live with a brain injury. We also want to show others that people living with a disability due to their brain injury are like anyone else, and are deserving of dignity, respect, compassion. There’s a story behind every mask and behind every mask there’s a person, a person that’s been touched by brain injury.
The Unmasking Brian Injury in Montana roadshow will be on display in Missoula throughout brain injury awareness month and travel across our state the rest of the year. The display is about 5 feet wide and 7 feet tall. It holds 20 masks that share the artists story about their personal journey with brain injury. The masks were created at our 2018 BIAMT annual conference titled “Facing the New Normal.”
John Bigart III is the executive director o the Brian Injury Alliance of Montana.