Editorial: TBI research another tool in addressing homelessness

In this edition, we run our second of three installments on traumatic brian injury, or TBI. In the first installment (All in their heads, May 27) Street Roots ran an in-depth feature piece introducing the subject, and Nick Patton, a formerly homeless Portlander who was misdiagnosed with schizophrenia for seven years when he was really having seizures from TBI that happened earlier in his life.

On page 3 of this edition we highlight why diagnosing TBI on the streets matters, in more ways than one. We introduce another individual affected by TBI, Jamie Smith, a veteran who lost his job, ran out of money, and eventually became homeless. Six years later he has finally won his Social Security Disability claim with the help of a local non-profit, Central City Concern, and the law firm Swanson, Thomas and Coon.

Both Nick Patton and Jamie Smith now have homes, and are productive members of society. But that’s not the case for many people experiencing homelessness who may be being misdiagnosed medically, or not receiving the disability assistance they both qualify for and deserve.

SR has talked to many doctors, medical professionals, health department representatives, researchers, attorneys representing cases on brain injuries, along with social service workers who all believe that the TBI is not only a cause for concern, but may make up a significant portion of the homeless population.

“Being able to recognize that there is a true disability as opposed to willful noncooperation is helpful, and worth investigating,” said by Dr. Stephen Hwang.

Yet, as Portland Attorney Cheryl Coon told SR, the question remains: “Whose keeping track of TBI? Nobody.”

That’s a problem.

From talking to some experts in the field, it appears that there is a slight caution, or resistance when talking about how to move forward in Portland concerning brain trauma and homelessness. With a lack of understanding of the issue at multiple systems levels, coupled with the lack of practical resources in the health care field, and the lack of revenue with both government and non-profits working with people, it’s understandable that the answers to TBI on the streets, and the solutions involved seem overwhelming.

SR will be continuing its coverage on TBI in future editions, including looking at a roadmap of how other communities are moving forward. In cities where studies have already been done, the rate of people with TBI on the streets was through the roof. We will look at how those cities paid for such studies, and what they are doing today to incorporate their findings into different systems. The outcomes could be significant, even if we collectively are still at an elementary stage of understanding the problem.

For example, research locally could help hundreds, possibly thousands of disability claims to move forward. It could also revolutionize the way we think about treating people on the streets, both medically and from a human perspective.

Not to put the cart before the horse, but SR is hoping to build a case for local government and foundations working in the health care field to look further into the matter. We know from working with the medical examiners office and local government on homeless deaths, that there are now new ways to think about identifying systemic problems in the work to end homelessness. There’s no reason to think that we can’t add another tool, in this case, possibly a major tool in that fight.

Stay tuned.

3 responses to “Editorial: TBI research another tool in addressing homelessness

  1. Pingback: Part II: Why diagnosing traumatic brain injuries on the streets matters | For those who can’t afford free speech

  2. Keith Bender

    My ability to accept myself as someone who has some degree of BI from 2 concussions I experienced around the time I was in First grade, some 48 years ago only came by doing a Searching and Fearless inventory of my life. How many jobs? How many times fired? How many times for cause? All this was only part of reconstructing a “TimeLine” of my Life.

    Nearly Four years ago I took a test online by an attorney who uses Content marketing imbedded with KeyWords. The actual test was relevant enough that I chose to trust it as an information source in my “Quest” to understand what was wrong with me. I had been dealing with Nicotine’s absence from my Synapses after 36 years of it’s filling the gaps instead of Acetyl-choline which meant a ton of relearning simple things .

    It’s only now ,nearly 5 years latter ,that the acceptance of whatever it is or might be called makes “sense” . To me it matters because it helps to make something out of nothing. Nothing in that it’s nothing that can be seen as something else very quickly and easily. Nothing because the way to assess it requires some expensive machine only available to State residents at only one Hospital in my State. So the likely hood of a specific diagnosis being obtained and then specific treatment of some sort is very very low. Quicker to dump me in another Diagnostic category and get on with life.

    Treatment of the likelyhood of Brain Injury in the assortment of ailments a “Case Manager” will encounter while helping those of us currently homeless ought to begin to help everyone in a self awareness that whatever the problem, a “HOME” cures a whole bunch of symptoms and conditions
    while lessening the likelyness of further harm.

    An online “test” which can become a downloaded PDF with editorial rewrite ……….turn it into a Free GOOGLE Doc. , anything that works to
    allow repeated access as it begins to get filled in. Making it an Awakening Tool for the person filling in the blanks. Living with Blanks we do not see is especially easy when you have nothing to compare it to. Making something from nothing takes an understanding and compassionate friend or helper somewhere along the road. Asking a homeless person to keep some paperwork is not as simple as you first think.

    Continuum of care should center around the person and with Hippa laws strangling empowerment you can easily give the “case Manager” the access password to the account. Or easier yet send it “Anonymously” by Google Doc. to that Case Manager. Use the CLOUD . Get past the BS of the Hippa someway or another and just do it….please.

    An all-purpose Awareness Tool that even helps guide you in the Disability process . Keeping us divided separates us from understanding the whole situation. I would be glad to join a discussion about this.


  3. Pingback: Street Roots four part series on brain injuries and homelessness | For those who can’t afford free speech

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