Janelle Breese Biagioni feels she and her husband were not given the support they needed after he suffered a traumatic brain injury in 1990.
Breese Biagioni was speaking at news conference last month in support of Private Member’s Bill C-277, the National Strategy on Brain Injuries Act, which was introduced by Alistair MacGregor, MP for Cowichan-Malahat-Langford.
The bill calls for a national strategy on brain injuries that aims to support the more than 1.5 million Canadians who are suffering from a brain injury.
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Breese Biagioni said her husband was a police officer who sustained a traumatic brain injury when he was in an accident on a police motorcycle, and died five months later.
She said that during those five months, her husband experienced significant anxiety and depression and there were no interventions available to help him at that time.
“Through the three decades I’ve been involved (in working with brain injury issues), I’ve advocated locally, provincially and nationally for more supports for people with brain injuries,” said Breese Biagioni, who is the founder of CGB Centre for Traumatic Life Losses.
“Every one of them has experienced profound grief, despair, anxiety and depression, and many of them have gone down the rabbit holes of self medication leading to strong addictions, and some have been homeless, and some have been incarcerated.”
Breese Biagioni said brain injuries are at the forefront of the nation’s opioid and homelessness crises, and if the nation is going to address these issues without addressing brain injuries and having a national strategy to deal with them, then the efforts to deal with these crises are moving forward with one of the main puzzle pieces missing.
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The proposed national strategy includes promoting the implementation of preventive measures to reduce risk; identifying the training, education and guidance needs of health care professionals; promoting research and improving data collection; creating national guidelines on the prevention, diagnosis, and management of brain injuries; encouraging the use of consulting psychologists to create a national support system; and developing and maintaining a government website to provide current facts, research, and best practices.
Dr. Alexis Turgeon, with the Canadian Traumatic Brain Injury Research Consortium, said brain injuries among the younger population are often due to auto accidents, while falls are one of the reasons many older people get brain injuries.
But, however they get their brain injuries, he said it changes the lives of all these people emotionally, psychologically, physically and sometimes their behaviour.
“It affects the individual, but also their families, friends, and the whole environment that surrounds them,” Turgeon said.
“Bill C-277 is paramount here. It’s time for a call to action and our consortium strongly supports this bill.”
MacGregor said he has learned over the years that people with brain injuries need help and that’s one of the reasons that he, as an MP, was proud to put the idea of a national strategy into action in the form of his private member’s bill.
“We all know that private members bills generally have a long road, and their success rate is quite low,” he said.
“So one of the goals is also to use Bill C-277 as a template, an example, of something we can use to campaign to get this government to put in place the supports that so many people need.”