Falling Through the Cracks: New Study Reveals Majority of Toronto's Homeless Have History of Brain Injury



    TORONTO, Oct. 7 /CNW/ - More than half of Toronto's homeless have
suffered a brain injury - and 70 per cent of those did so prior to ending up
on the street - according to a landmark study published today.
    "Sadly, this study proves our greatest fears," says John Kumpf of the
Ontario Alliance for Action on Brain Injury (OAABI). "In our society, people
living with acquired brain injury do not get the community support they need,
and they fall through the cracks."
    The study, published today in the Canadian Medical Association Journal,
showed that 53 per cent of Toronto's homeless report a history of traumatic
brain injury. The study was authored by Dr. Stephen Hwang, research scientist
at St. Michael's Hospital, and Dr. Angela Colantonio, senior scientist at
Toronto Rehab.
    "Many of those who survive a brain injury in Ontario end up alone. They
go unnoticed, undiagnosed, and uncared for," Kumpf noted.
    OAABI estimates that close to half a million Ontarians currently live
with an acquired brain injury (ABI) - including some 27,000 children - and
18,000 new cases are added every year. Brain injury is significantly more
prevalent than breast cancer, spinal cord injury and HIV/AIDS combined.
    In addition to some ending up on the streets, other brain injury
survivors find themselves in a downward spiral that leads to a similar
dead-end. For example, preliminary findings from another study found that 44
per cent of the prison population in Ontario also has a history of brain
injury.
    Often survivors are inappropriately placed in long-term care homes and
psychiatric hospitals. There, without specialized treatment, any progress they
achieved in rehab is usually lost.
    Acquired brain injury can result in lifelong impairments, with survivors
and their caregivers dealing with the effects of brain injury for the rest of
their lives. Unfortunately, the lifelong support they require is often
unavailable. OAABI is working to develop a framework for a comprehensive and
integrated system of services that will support brain injury survivors in the
community, and it expects to present this strategic framework to the Ontario
government in the near future.
    OAABI has also launched a campaign to increase public awareness and
understanding of brain injury.
    "Right now, brain injury survivors are largely invisible in our society.
We have to start seeing them," said Kumpf. "We have to acknowledge their
difficulties and struggles, and then advocate on their behalf so they can get
the services that will allow them to live with dignity."
    At the Alliance's website - www.see-us.ca - visitors can learn more about
acquired brain injury, send an email to their MPP, view a video, and subscribe
to a newsletter.
    Alliance members are: Ontario Brain Injury Association (OBIA), Toronto
ABI Network, The Provincial Acquired Brain Injury Advisory Committee (PABIAC),
The Ontario Association of Community-Based Boards for Acquired Brain Injury
Services (OACBABIS), and Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation (ONF).





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