There’s a dramatic “uptick” in number of Iowans showing up in an emergency room because of a brain injury.
“The Department of Public Health is reporting more than 30,000 Iowans in 2014 were seen in emergency rooms, compared with only 13,000 emergency department visits in 2009, so it’s more than doubled,” says Geoffrey Lauer, executive director of the Brain Injury Alliance of Iowa.
Lauer says there’s growing public awareness about brain injuries due to the news about sports concussions and soldiers who’ve suffered brain injuries.
“Awareness is good,” Lauer says. “However, we have more people surviving with long-term disabilities.”
More than 90,000 Iowans have a long-term disability because of a brain injury, according to Lauer. Patients who’ve been treated for a “traumatic” brain injury in an Iowa hospital get a letter from the state about two months later, explaining the Brain Injury Service program.
“The primary service…is resource facilitation…in which skilled brain injury professionals reach out, connect to people and help explain what’s going on both medically, cognitively and help people connect and stay connected to necessary services and supports,” Lauer says, “so they don’t get lost.”
Lauer is asking state officials to at least continue taxpayer support of that program at current levels. Lauer says the data shows case managers who work with people who’ve suffered a traumatic brain injury help those patients keep their job or stay in school, stay out jail and stay out of the psych ward.
“The death rate for brain injury in Iowa has been decreasing, The Department of Public Health has been noticing a trend, which is great, because our prevention efforts have been succeeding,” Lauer says. “However, Iowans who are surviving moderate to mild brain injury as well as severe are on the uptick.”
More than 3.1 million Americans have a life-long disability due to a brain injury or stroke. Early next year, every Iowa school district will get a new “protocol” for dealing with students they suspect have suffered a concussion.