I just finished reading an article from the Lexington Herald-Leader about one family’s experience with traumatic brain injury, and the hardships, both emotional and financial, that they must cope with.

The article focuses on the Portwood family whose son/brother Mark suffered a traumatic brain injury two years ago. Due to the Portwood’s limited income, Medicaid, the joint state and federal program that provides health care to the poor and disabled and long-term care for the elderly, has paid for Mark’s medications and hospital bills, but Mark’s parents have had to cover other expenses. They depleted their savings, spending thousands on a hospital bed and a van equipped with a wheelchair lift.

The Portwoods join others without health insurance who are going after limited state resources for brain injury patients, including financial assistance for expensive medical needs such as wheelchairs or hospital beds. Families also are competing for limited spots in state brain injury recovery programs.

In Kentucky, there are only two programs — the Acquired Brain Injury Waiver program and the Kentucky Traumatic Brain Injury Trust Fund — that offer financial support to families of people who have suffered a traumatic brain injury.

The Acquired Brain Injury Waiver offers three years of service, including physical and speech therapy, to adults between the ages of 21 and 65. According to the article, there are currently 45 people are on the waiting list for the waiver. The Kentucky Traumatic Brain Injury Trust Fund offers up to $15,000 a year to help with expenses related to a brain injury.

Both programs have more than a year-long waiting list and there are fewer state dollars available to help those with a brain injury, compared with those with other conditions, such as mental retardation.

In fiscal year 2003, Kentucy spent more than $279 million on programs for about 447,000 people with mental illness or severe emotional disorders. More than $129 million was spent on mental retardation or developmental disability programs serving about 110,000 people. That’s compared with $7.2 million spent on brain injury programs for about 480,000 people, according to the Brain Injury Association of Kentucky which has lobbied the state legislature for more General Fund dollars to increase services for those with brain injuries.

This article is a great example of the limited funding available for traumatic brain injured individuals and their families. Fundraising by state brain injury associations helps to close the gap by funding programs and providing services not offered by the State or Federal government. I encourage you to explore how you can become involved with supporting your state’s brain injury association. I am a supporter of my state’s brain injury association.

Facts on brain injury patients in Kentucky, based on a 2003 University of Kentucky survey of 3,267 households