Bills would improve help for brain injury victims

Thursday, March 5, 2009 | 7:25 p.m. CST

JEFFERSON CITY  — Six years ago Lisa Miller was on her way to see a client.

She drove her small car onto the highway but never made it to her destination. As far as she can remember, two semi-trucks collided with her vehicle along the way.

Miller, 44, survived the crash, but was left with significant effects to her short-term memory.

“I don’t remember very much prior to the accident. I look at pictures and don’t remember taking them,” Miller, of Illinois, said. “I have three boys, and I don’t remember giving birth to them. That hurts.”

Miller and about 90 other supporters from Missouri and nearby states gathered at the Capitol on Wednesday to advocate for increased funding for brain-injury services. March has been designated Brain Injury Awareness Month by the Brain Injury Association of America.

“In the last decade, we have lost so much funding for people with brain injuries,” said Donna Gunning, executive director for the Center for Head Injury Services. “Our biggest concern is the costs for rehabilitation services.”

Three years ago Missouri Medicaid cuts eliminated a good deal of services for people with brain injuries.

The group spoke with Missouri legislators in support of HB 530 and SB 77.

“These bills would restore the services that were cut,” said David Brothers, mid-Missouri business manager for the center.

HB 530 would add comprehensive day rehabilitation services, beginning soon after trauma, for individuals with disabling impairments to the list of services covered under the MO HealthNet program. SB 77 would add coverage for more services under the program.

HB 530 was read for the second time in the House on Feb. 2, while SB 77 passed the Senate’s Health, Mental Health, Seniors and Families Committee on Feb. 10. No other actions are scheduled yet.

“We’re still waiting on it to go on the calendar so it can go to vote,” Brothers said. “It’s kind of hard to predict what will happen now.”

It’s unclear how the funding would affect the state’s budget.

If the Missouri General Assembly approves the bills, Miller said she’ll begin advocating in her home state of Illinois.

“It doesn’t stop here,” Miller says.


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