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Funds Sought for Brain Injury Survivors

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Jason Young, head of an organization that runs two Virginia "clubhouses" for people with brain injuries and chair of the Virginia Alliance of Brain Injury Service Providers, is trying to get the state legislature to change that. The group hopes lawmakers will approve a bill providing a Medicaid waiver to cover services such as day programs, residential options and job training.

Other waivers already exist for the benefit of people who are elderly and disabled or mentally retarded, or who have developmental disabilities or AIDS.

A similar measure failed to get funding last year, but Young hopes this year will be different. The need for brain-injury services in Virginia is only growing, he says, especially with the return of injured veterans from Iraq.

Young says he's had difficulty getting numbers from the Department of Veterans' Affairs, but about two-thirds of war injuries are brain injuries, he says. People with these injuries may be in need of community-based services after they leave basic rehabilitation.

"If you're a legislator, how can you say no to that?" Young asks.

Del. M. Kirkland Cox, R-Colonial Heights, and Sen. R. Edward Houck, D-Spotsylvania, plan to sponsor the legislation. Cox says he was reluctant to sponsor the bill when Young first asked him three years ago, because he's a fiscal conservative.

Now he's convinced that Virginians with brain injuries are entirely deserving of government assistance, Cox says. Last week he heard several brain-injury victims speak at an appropriations hearing, he says: people who had been attacked, been in car crashes, and most memorably a mother of two whose skull was crushed by a bicyclist. "After it happened, she almost had no services whatsoever," Cox says.

Cox is a good ally for brain-injury advocates to have, as he sits on the powerful House Appropriations Committee that determines which pieces of legislation will receive funding. The bill, which has yet to be drafted, will ask for an initial waiver covering services for 200 people, which would cost $7.5 million in state Medicaid

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