We recently corresponded with Erin Leavitt-Smith, representative of the State of Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction (DMHAS) regarding acquired brain injury symptoms and treatments.

What is (the definition of) an Acquired Brain Injury (according to DMHAS ABI) and what are some examples of how such an injury occurs?

An Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) is an injury to the brain that has occurred after birth, which results in any combination of focal and diffuse central nervous system dysfunction, both immediate and/or delayed at the brain stem level and above.  This dysfunction of the central nervous system is acquired through the interaction of any external force and the body including blows to the head and violent movements of the body as well as through oxygen deprivation; infection; toxicity; surgery; and vascular disorders not associated with aging.  This dysfunction is not congenital, developmental, or degenerative.

For DMHAS ABI, a traumatic brain injury falls under the DMHAS ABI definition of acquired brain injury.  A brain injury may occur as a result of a motor vehicle accident, stroke, fall, physical assault, or overdose resulting in a hypoxic or anoxic event.

What are the requirements to be eligible for the State’s (DMHAS) ABI Program?

  • Accepted for DMHAS services and currently receiving qualifying (Mental Health) services
  • Has a qualifying Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) as determined through appropriate documentation
  • Does not have a primary diagnosis of a degenerative cognitive disorder
  • The dysfunction of the central nervous system is not congenital, developmental, or degenerative
  • The services are accepted voluntarily

If someone is suspected of having an acquired brain injury as the result of an accident, what are the types of services that your agency offers?

  • DMHAS ABI Clinician provides consultation and assessment services to CT residents to assist in determining a qualifying brain injury as defined by DMHAS ABI Services, as well as recommendations/coordination of potential resources.
  • If determined to meet DMHAS ABI eligibility the DMHAS ABI Clinician provides continued consultation services and advocacy for the client, as well as assessment and referral to additional services within the DMHAS ABI program as follows:
  1. Occupational Therapy assessment
  2. ABI Substance Use Services
  3. Community Residential Services
  4. Community Living Support Services

Do you have any advice for family members of those with acquired brain injury regarding how to best support their loved ones?

  • Obtain, and retain, the primary medical records from the injury; make copies for others if needed, but do not give away your original copies as the records may be needed to determine the eligibility of services down the road.
  • Patience is key for both the family and the brain-injured family member. Most people in the field of brain injury can tell you that “if you’ve seen one brain injury, you’ve seen one brain injury.”  Each brain injury is different.
  • Education regarding brain injury is important to assist with understanding some of the changes their loved ones may experience.
  • Utilize caregiver support groups for self-care.
  • Don’t hesitate to seek assistance on behalf of yourself or the injured individual. Several family members have stated they feel like they’ve been thrown into a new and confusing world of brain injury of which they are not familiar.   DMHAS ABI provides no-cost consultation services and can assist the brain-injured individual, family, or provider with a road map to services that best support the injured individual.

Is there anything else you would like to share with people regarding brain injury education and rehabilitation?

The field of brain injury, knowledge, and supports are constantly changing.  The resources below provide additional information regarding brain injury resources available to families, professionals, and the community at large.  Many also provide free online training:

Pro Tip: Brain injuries affect all aspects of the injured party’s life. Investigate all available resources and if you have a question about a brain injury case, please contact us.