Organizations that support people with brain injuries have mounted a campaign to persuade the federal government to develop a national strategy to address the brain injury crisis in Canada.
The CGB Centre for Traumatic Life Losses, the BC Brain Injury Association and the Cowichan Brain Injury Society, along with Brain Injury Canada, are supporting a petition and letter-writing campaign to push for action by Parliament, including passage of a private member’s bill from NDP MP Alastair MacGregor – the National Strategy on Brain Injuries Act.
It’s estimated that over 165,000 new cases of traumatic brain injury occur each year in the country and that more than 1.5 million Canadians are living with a brain injury.¹
Advocacy groups say these statistics are grossly understated because thousands of acquired brain injuries² are not diagnosed, treated or tracked medically.
“We’re learning about additional causes of brain injuries, and many people in those recently recognized categories are slipping through the cracks – with undiagnosed damage and no treatment or recovery support,” says Janelle Breese Biagioni, founder & CEO of the CGB Centre for Traumatic Life Losses.
“We now know that more than 200,000 Canadian women a year experience a brain injury through intimate partner violence. And more people are acquiring brain injuries after surviving opioid overdoses, which are on the rise. The numbers are exploding and communities are feeling the impacts at all levels.”
Ms. Breese Biagioni has been advocating for individuals and families affected by brain injury for more than 30 years. In 1990, her husband, RCMP Constable Gerald Breese, died following a traumatic brain injury he acquired while on duty.
" We now know that more than 200,000 Canadian women a year experience a brain injury through intimate partner violence. And more people are acquiring brain injuries after surviving opioid overdoses, which are on the rise. Janelle Breese Biagioni
Founder & CEO of the CGB Centre for Traumatic Life Losses
For the past several years, she has been collaborating with Mr. MacGregor, the federal representative of her home community of Langford, B.C.
“After learning about the devastating impact of brain injury in Canada, I made a commitment to help create change,” says Mr. MacGregor. “We need the political will to support a national strategy to improve prevention and data reporting, enhance training for health-care professionals and establish nation-wide standards for the diagnosis, treatment and management of brain injuries.”
“A brain injury is a life-changing event, and it can lead to a variety of short- or long-term effects: changes to your independence, abilities, work, and relationships with family, friends and caregivers,” says Michelle McDonald, executive director of Brain Injury Canada. “A national strategy would help us identify the gaps in services and supports and act to break down systemic barriers to their access.”
Ms. Breese Biagioni says municipal, provincial/territorial and federal governments need to be involved in addressing the challenges, as do departments and ministries with departments with various responsibilities.
“Brain injury goes beyond health care,” she says, explaining the link to homelessness, with an estimated 50 per cent of people living on the street having a brain injury. “It’s also a justice issue; more than 90 per cent of incarcerated individuals have suffered a brain injury. We also have injuries to combat veterans and the connections between mental health and addictions, and brain injuries.
“Instead of trying to address these issues in siloes, we need coordination and effective sharing of resources.”
Find information on signing the e-petition and writing to your MP at traumaticlifelosses.com
² “Acquired” refers to any damage to the brain that occurs after birth and is not related to a congenital or degenerative disease.
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