FREED gets new grant |

FREED gets new grant

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New Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Support Group offered through FREED.

Confidential peer support for those living with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). FREED is hosting a friendly, peer-led, peer-support group meeting in a fully accessible space. Philosophic emphasis on Independent living and voluntary skills-sharing. The group meets from 11 a.m. to noon, Tuesdays at 2059 Nevada City Highway, Suite 102, Grass Valley. For more information call Manda at 530-477-3333, ext. 204.

The FREED Center for Independent Living is one of just seven sites in California to receive state grant funding specifically earmarked to help those with traumatic brain injuries, commonly known as TBI.

Funded through the California Department of Rehabilitation’s seat belt penalty fund, FREED will receive $120,000 a year for three years to serve Nevada, Yuba, Sutter, Shasta and Butte counties.

Despite steep competition for limited funding in a state with more than 38 million people, FREED’s executive director Ana Acton said this region was identified as a broad, underserved area.

Due to the area’s rural setting, those with TBI face significant challenges when it comes to accessing services and transportation.

“This is very exciting — the big new piece is service coordination,” said Acton. “The grant allows us to offer more comprehensive care and more contact with individuals for a longer period of time. Up until now, there were many with TBI who did not qualify for services for a host of reasons.”

For example, she added, prior to the grant funding — which came through July 1 — many with TBI who were over 18 or not in the military were denied much-needed services.

The goal of the newly-formed “TBI Program” is to provide core services, including supported living services, vocational support, information, referral, community outreach and education about the condition.

Services in the five counties will be provided through one TBI specialist based at FREED’s Grass Valley office, and another in Chico.

According to data from the California Department of Health EpiCenter, California Injury Database Online, from 2011 to 2013 there were 686,249 diagnoses of TBI in California.

During this same time period, in Nevada, Yuba, Sutter, Butte, and Shasta counties there were 11,855 individuals diagnosed with TBI. Between 2011 and 2013, there were 2,320 individuals diagnosed with TBI in Nevada County.

In all five counties receiving grant funding, the number one cause of TBI for women and men was unintentional falls. The second was unintentionally being struck by an object or person (not intentional assault or motor vehicle).

The third cause for men was due to an assault or fights and for women it was motor vehicle incidents.

Thanks to the grant, FREED is now hosting a weekly peer support group for those living with TBI. The meetings are friendly and peer-led at FREED’s centrally-located office in Grass Valley.

The “philosophic emphasis” of the group is on independent living and voluntary skills-sharing, said Manda Miel, an independent living specialist who facilitates the Grass Valley support group.

“The group is open to anyone who wants to come in at any time,” said Miel. “We’ll be skill-sharing and discussing positive strategies — not just focusing on what doesn’t work. A key goal is to help take away the stigma and diminish the shame of TBI. We keep asking, ‘How can we be more inclusive?’”

Miel herself sustained a brain injury in 1986 as a result of a violent assault when she was just 14. She believes a holistic approach — including self forgiveness, gratitude, nutrition and exercise — is a key component to learning to live with TBI, or along the broad spectrum of “neurodiversity.”

Brain injuries can range from mild and “multiple mild” to profound, said Acton, and for some it’s invisible to casual acquaintances.

“Several mild injuries — such as repeated concussions — can lead to life-long problems,” she said. “Sometimes a family member will say, ‘You look the same, but you don’t act the same.’ Family members can start to see mood swings, problems with decision making, social discretion, planning and organization. A growing number of people — including football players, equestrians, martial artists and victims of domestic violence — are being diagnosed. Falls are a major cause of head injuries for the elderly.”

Once the profound need for TBI services is demonstrated via newly introduced services and resources, FREED staff say they hope the data will prove that funding is needed beyond the grant’s sunset in 2018.

Everyone should have an opportunity for recovery and dignified stabilization, Acton said.

“Twenty years ago when I was injured, a peer support group comprised of people with TBI would never have happened,” said Miel. “It’s very rewarding and precious to see people finally getting their needs met and diminishing the shame they may feel.”

To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at

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