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Brain Injury Association of Rhode Island Fund
By Jean Cohoon / March 4, 2015 /   Loading Disqus...
In Rhode Island, a brain injury occurs every hour according to the Brain Injury Association of Rhode Island. This statewide nonprofit, founded in 1983, has as its mission “to prevent brain injury and to enhance the lives of those affected by brain injury.”

Brain injuries are caused by such things as falls, sports injuries, and car accidents. Traumatic brain injuries also are increasing among members of the military. “Families’ lives can change in an instant,” Debra Sharpe, executive director, says of this injury that may impair cognitive, physical, behavioral, and emotional functions.

Brain injuries also may be caused by exposure to toxic chemicals, take years to develop, and result in Parkinson’s and certain forms of dementia. “This is an unrecognized work-related injury,” explains Robert Naparstek, M.D., a member of the Association board.

Prevention is a key component of the Association’s work. “We have a strong education program, especially with schoolchildren,” Debra shares. The Association conducts baseline testing and coordinates ImPact testing in schools and community organizations by training personnel to conduct the testing themselves. Last year 2,744 high school students were tested. The testing, Robert explains, involves simple memory, visual spatial, and Q & A testing. “It’s common sense, easy, and inexpensive,” he states.

Much of the Association’s work is with individuals with brain injuries and their families. “Brain injury cuts across all socio economics,” Robert says, with Debra adding, “And it affects so many people.”

The Association offers support groups for survivors and families, as well as separate groups for caregivers, and provides training for professionals in the field. A comprehensive resource center at the Association’s East Providence office offers books, pamphlets, DVD’s, and other resources for both a professional and lay audience.

One of 26 chartered affiliates of the Brain Injury Association of America, the Association is the only group in the state that deals with brain injury, according to Debra. They currently are funded by a state grant and private donations and see this organization endowment as a means to greater self-sufficiency. “The board is taking action to reinvigorate the organization. We’re embarking on a new era,” Robert explains.
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