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Traumatic brain injury survivors receive much-needed support

A new program is providing support for local people affected by traumatic brain injury (TBI), thanks to the generosity of  many donors.

By Julie Biesterveld, Traumatic Brain Injury Support Program Coordinator, SOAR Fox Cities

SOAR Fox Cities received a grant from the Basic Needs Giving Partnership, a fund within the Community Foundation supported by the U.S. Venture Fund for Basic Needs, the J.J. Keller Foundation, and other community partners, to implement a new program. The grant for nearly $300,000 over the course of a three-year period will increase support services for traumatic brain injury (TBI) survivors and their loved ones, as well as awareness of TBI within the broader community.

Traumatic brain injury can be caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head, or by penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal function of the brain. The injury can be mild, moderate, or severe. Not all TBI survivors require hospitalization at the time of injury, but even a mild TBI can cause lingering symptoms and difficulty returning to the person’s previous level of functioning.

This journey first began when a group of passionate individuals came together and identified TBI support as an unmet need in the Fox Cities. In partnership with UW-Oshkosh, this group conducted research to further understand the problem, surveying area shelter residents about head injuries they had sustained during their lives.

The results of this survey were, in a word, alarming. Of the 331 individuals surveyed, 86% reported sustaining at least one head or neck injury, but services specifically for TBI survivors were nonexistent in this area. Unless diagnosed immediately, many survivors had been left to navigate the system independently, some unaware of why they were struggling post-injury. With the help of our partners serving populations at high-risk of having or obtaining a TBI — Neuroscience Group, Pillars, Apricity, Harbor House, and Christine Ann Center — we developed a new program to serve survivors of TBI in the Fox Cities.

A recent continuous improvement coaching session sessions gave BRAIN Fox Valley and SOAR Fox Cities a unified direction.

The mission of the TBI Support Program is to support, navigate, inform and care for our community members living with a traumatic brain injury. The program has three facets: community education, resource navigation, and support services.

Through community education, we increase awareness of the impact and prevalence of TBIs in our community by providing informational presentations and training on the unique challenges TBIs present, and easy accommodations that can be made to support survivors. These presentations are customizable to fit the specific needs of the audience, for example first responders, educators, professionals, or the general public. Our resource navigation services provide survivors with personalized consultation and one-on-one problem solving to find creative solutions, meet needs, and achieve goals. Through this facet, individual challenges with personal relationships, employment, navigating the system, and more can be addressed and resolved.

Our support services provide opportunities for survivors and their loved ones to discuss challenges, offer solutions, and receive in-person support from others with shared experiences. Connecting with other survivors is often paramount in TBI recovery, as new challenges become normalized and survivors know that they are not alone. We have continued our support services through the COVID-19 pandemic with virtual support groups, as well as simple check-ins with survivors and their families. Within the next two years, our program will expand to include peer-to-peer support networks, as well as family support networks to maximize connections and guidance for people who are new to brain injury.

Through this program, TBI survivors and those closest to them can access information and resources with ease and feel supported as they navigate new and unchartered waters. With the help of our partners, we are reaching many different pockets of the community to identify and support survivors of TBI. Our hope is that, with support, survivors of TBI can continue living fulfilling lives, meeting their goals, and thriving in the community.

The Basic Needs Giving Partnership within the Community Foundation is supported by the U.S. Venture Fund for Basic Needs, the J.J. Keller Foundation, Inc., and other community partners. Learn more here.


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