New Law on Traumatic Brain Injury

By Richard H. Adler, Attorney at Law

On May 8, 2007, Governor Gregoire signed into law House Bill (HB) 2055 that created a new law focusing on assisting survivors of traumatic brain injury and their caregivers.

The new law recognizes the struggles that those with traumatic brain injury (TBI) contend with on a day to day basis and the lack off service available to them
“SECTION 1……Traumatic brain injury can cause a wide range of functional
changes affecting thinking, sensation, language, or emotions. It can also cause
epilepsy and increase the risk for conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease,
Parkinson’s disease, and other brain disorders that become more prevalent
with age. The impact of a traumatic brain injury on the individual and family can
be devastating.

The legislature recognizes that current programs and services are not funded or
designed to address the diverse needs of this population. It is the intent of the
legislature to develop a comprehensive plan to help individuals with traumatic
brain injuries meet their needs.”
The new law has 3 main component

Creation of an advisory council
Public Awareness Campaign by December 1, 2007
Traumatic Brain Injury Account

I. ADVISORY COUNCIL

The law creates the Washington Traumatic Brain Injury Strategic Partnership Advisory Council (Council) within the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). The Council consists of a wide variety of individuals who are appointed by the Governor. The Council’s members will include representatives from several state agencies, non-profit agencies working with individuals with TBI, health care specialists, vocational specialist, social workers, the Washington Protection and Advocacy System, and individuals with TBI and their family members.

Perhaps one of the more significant tasks of the Council will be to identify the ‘cracks in the system’ and gaps in services; how to build provider training; improving the coordination of services; and submitting a report to the Governor and Legislature regarding the work of DSHS and improvements in services and programs for individuals with TBIs.

II. PUBLIC AWARENESS CAMPAIGN

By December 1, 2007 DSHS is required to institute, in collaboration with the Council, a public awareness campaign that utilizes state or federal funding to leverage a private advertising campaign to promote awareness of TBIs through all forms of media including television, radio, and print.

DSHS is also required to provide funding to programs that facilitate support groups to individuals with TBIs and their families. DSHS shall use a request for proposal to select the programs to receive funding. The Council must provide recommendations to DSHS on the criteria to be used in selecting the programs. The public awareness campaign and the support groups will be funded solely from the TBI account.

III. TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY ACCOUNT

The Traumatic Brain Injury Account (Account) is created and funded by fees collected on a new $2.00 fine levied on all committed traffic infractions in the State of Washington. It is project that this $2.00 levy will result in approximately 1.8 to 2.0 million dollars per year for this account designated exclusively the use on prevention, referral and support services relating to TBI.

IV. CONCLUSION

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that at least 5.3 million Americans, approximately 2% of the U.S. population, currently have a long-term or lifelong need for help to perform activities of daily living as a result of TBI. Also, TBI contributes to a substantial number of deaths and cases of permanent disability annually. The new law in the state of Washington will take important first steps in providing some funding of services. More importantly, it will organize (for the first time) a Strategic Partnership Advisory Council to identify gaps in services and how to fix it so that effective treatment and services are provided to those struggling with TBI and its aftermath.