Non-profit navigates brain injury recovery, advocates for prevention

James Madison University received 22,057 applications for the Fall of 2016.  The Virginia Department of Health states a higher statistic—28,000 Virginians each year experience a brain injury.

These 28,000 learn to battle and cope with complications as they attempt to regain stability in thinking, working, and maintaining social relationships.  Often, misconceptions or lack of resources present barriers to treatment.  So, in comes Crossroads, a non-profit affiliate of the Institution for Health and Human Services at JMU that provides case management and education when brain injuries occur.

“Crossroads to Brain Injury Recovery, Inc. is the result of years of grassroots mobilization led by a local person who was a caregiver for her son who sustained a brain injury,” said Executive Director Tamara Wagester.

Services span across Virginia’s sixth planning district, covering localities in Rockingham, Highland, Bath, Augusta, and Rockbridge.  A satellite to the office at JMU operates in Fishersville and provides rehabilitation and workforce aid.

Cost-effectiveness is a core value of the non-profit.  By not requiring fees for service, Crossroads ensures that help is always available to those who could benefit.

“We are committed to serving those with the greatest needs and the least resources,” said Wagester.

Case managers help clients navigate their way through recovery systems after suffering an injury.  Services may aim to get individuals back into the classroom or the workplace, provide household care, or assist with finances and medical paperwork.

“Crossroads’ services are designed to meet the needs of the individuals we serve to maximize the person’s independence in the community,” said Wagester.  “By increasing independence and involvement in life activities, the overall cost to the community will be decreased as individuals will become more productive and less dependent on government or community support.”

Aside from case management at the micro level, Crossroads takes a macro level approach to brain injury prevention.  In the past, the non-profit has spoken at colleges, public schools, community organizations, and health fairs.

“Education equals prevention,” said Wagester.

Educational programs differentiate between traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and non-traumatic brain injuries, explain the signs and symptoms of injuries, and correct misconceptions.

According to Wagester, one common misconception is that brain injuries have a brief recovery period and temporary effects.

“Every brain injury is different and every recovery process is different,” said Wagester. “Only time will tell what the level of recovery will be. It is more likely that life will have a ‘new normal.’”

Another belief to correct is that a concussion does not count as a TBI.

“A concussion is a jolt to the head and it can change the way your brain normally works,” said Wagester.  “Getting diagnosed as early as possible and then seeking treatment or rehab, if necessary, is crucial.”

Throughout practice, Crossroads emphasizes five core values: respect, collaboration, integrity, innovation, and cost-effectiveness.

“Brain injuries can happen to anybody, of any age, from any walk of life, of any religion or race,” said Wagester.  “We are committed to being honest, accountable and professional in our relationships and communications.”