Falling Through the Cracks: 500,000 People with Brain Injury in Ontario Largely Forgotten and Invisible; New Alliance Calls for Partnership with Government to Address Issues

    TORONTO, June 10 /CNW/ - Close to half a million Ontarians currently live
with an acquired brain injury (ABI) and 18,000 new cases are added every year.
Brain injury is eight times more prevalent than breast cancer, seven times
more prevalent than spinal cord injury and 400 times more prevalent than
    And yet, ABI survivors are largely invisible to the general public and
forgotten in the province's health care and social services system.
    "Ontario's health care system does a great job of patching people up in
the immediate aftermath of their injury. But once they're released from
hospitals and rehab facilities, ABI survivors are often left on their own,"
said John Kumpf of the Ontario Alliance for Action on Brain Injury, a brand
new coalition launched today at a Queen's Park news conference.
    With no comprehensive system in place, many ABI survivors fall through
the cracks. Based on preliminary findings from a new research study, it is
estimated that slightly more than half (53 per cent) of homeless people in
Toronto have a history of brain injury. Preliminary findings from a study on
the inappropriate placement of ABI survivors found that 44 per cent of the
prison population in Ontario also has a history of brain injury.
    As well, ABI survivors are often inappropriately placed in long term care
homes and psychiatric hospitals. There, without specialized treatment, any
progress they achieved in rehab is usually lost.
    Meanwhile, children with ABI often go undiagnosed in the school system
and are mislabeled and misunderstood. It is estimated that there are some
27,000 children with ABI in Ontario's schools.
    Over the last few decades, advances in medical technology have resulted
in a dramatic increase in life expectancy for persons with brain injuries,
which means the number of people living with ABI in our communities is
increasing every year.
    ABI survivor April Ferguson told the news conference that she was one of
the 'lucky ones' because she sustained a brain injury after being struck by a
car while riding her bicycle. Auto insurance provided more rehabilitation than
otherwise would have been available.
    "The average age to sustain an acquired brain injury is 34 - people in
the prime of their lives," explained Ferguson. "That means many
un-rehabilitated survivors have a long, sad journey of dependency ahead of
    Moreover, exhausted caregivers - often aging parents, partners and family
members - are suffering burn out, depression, and loneliness because of lack
of support. They spend years taking care of their loved ones, using their own
savings and giving up much of their own lives.
    Jan Fisher has been primary caregiver to her husband, John, since he
suffered a catastrophic brain injury almost 30 years ago. "It is a long lonely
road - one which I hope none of you ever have to travel," she said at Queen's
Park today.
    In response to these issues, Ontario's experts in ABI have joined
together to form The Ontario Alliance for Action on Brain Injury (OAABI).
OAABI is undertaking a campaign to create public awareness of ABI. As well, it
is seeking to partner with government in the development and implementation of
a comprehensive strategy to support brain injury survivors and their families
in the community.
    The Alliance's website - www.see-us.ca - was also launched today.
Visitors are able to learn more about ABI, send an email to their MPP, view a
video, and subscribe to a newsletter. The Alliance also unveiled its new
television public service announcements.
    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).

For further information:

For further information: or to arrange interviews, please contact:
Rachel Sa, rachel@prpost.ca, office (416) 777-0368, cell (416) 454-7713

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