Brain Injury Support Group May Be Formed


Health officials estimate there are 260 people living in Alleghany County suffering from long-term effects of brain injuries.

Brain Injury Services of Southwest Virginia, a nonprofit organization founded by Greg and Fran Rooker of Radford, is seeking to help those individuals access all levels of help that is available.

The organization will hold an open house Sunday, March 15, at Alleghany Regional Hospital from 3 to 6 p.m. At the open house, Kristen Beindorf, lead case manager for Brain Injury Services of Southwest Virginia, will provide information on forming a support group in the Alleghany Highlands.

The support group will be established to bring together people who have experienced brain injuries and provide a forum for self-expression and encouragement. An experienced facilitator will be present at each meeting.

The support group will also help individuals navigate their way through the complex human services system and access the resources they need.

"There is no one entity that focuses just on brain injuries. The mental health services that are in place are not serving brain injury people unless there is a dual diagnosis," said Helen Butler, executive director of Brain Injury Services of Southwest Virginia.

Butler said individuals coping with brain injuries often suffer physical, emotional and cognitive impairments. She said cognitive problems are often frustrating and difficult to overcome.

These individuals often have problems with short-term memory and sequencing events. They may have trouble with problem solving and getting organized, she said.

Butler noted that brain injury goes by many different names — shaken baby syndrome, stroke, concussion and head injury. The causes include physical assault, car accidents, falls, drug overdoses, heart attacks, carbon monoxide poisoning, meningitis and near strangulation

Brain Injury Services has offices in Roanoke and Radford. It employs case managers who can work with adults and children. The organization also works with companies to help them understand the impact that brain injuries have on people.

The Rookers founded Brain Injury Services of Southwest Virginia in 2000 after their only son, Jason, died of a brain injury at age 11. Brain Injury Services operates separately from the Jason Foundation, which was also established by the Rookers in honor of their son. The foundation helps provide information and support to families of brain injury victims. The Jason Foundation provides financial support to Brain Injury Services of Southwest Virginia.

In 2001, Brain Injury Services of Southwest Virginia began serving the Roanoke and New River valleys. Its services were expanded into the Mount Rogers region of Southwestern Virginia last October.

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