by JOHN BIGART, Brain Injury Alliance of Montana
It has been said that brain injury doesn’t have a face until it happens to you or someone that you love. Unfortunately, we, at the Brain Injury Alliance of Montana (BIAMT), have seen the truth in that statement every day for the last 30 years.
Most Montanans don’t realize just how common brain injuries are in our state. Montana has one of the highest rates of death from brain injury per capita in the nation, and 33 Montanans a DAY experience a brain injury. Currently, more than 45,000 Montanans are living with brain injury.
Despite growing attention and concern of brain injury nationwide, in Montana, too many individuals die from brain injury. Those who survive often live with its burdensome effects for the rest of their lives. Brain injury also takes its toll on those caring for survivors.
Our brains are complex and powerful organs that allow us to think, feel, and store memories while controlling and coordinating our body’s actions and reactions. Brain injuries are like snowflakes in that no two are exactly alike and affect every person differently. This can make treatment and recovery challenging. This is where BIAMT is here to help.
BIAMT’s mission is to create a better future for those impacted by brain injury through awareness, support, advocacy, community engagement, and prevention. This Fall we will be celebrating our 30th year of helping people in Montana. As the only organization in the state solely dedicated to helping brain injury survivors, we are proud of the difference we have made in peoples’ lives. BIAMT’s services are driven by our continued dedication to this mission to prevent brain injuries, to minimize their impact, and to ensure those affected maximize their quality of life.
Each year BIAMT holds a conference for healthcare professionals and survivors. This year’s conference, Unmasking Brain Injury in Montana: Facing the New Normal will be held on October 14 in Bozeman. Everyone is encouraged to attend to learn more about brain injury and recovery, about building treatment relationships with providers, and about strategies to improve communication after brain injury. The conference will feature an art-based activity for attending survivors to create personalized masks that symbolically express their feelings about how the impact of brain injury has affected their lives. These masks will be featured as part of our statewide initiative to bring about greater awareness of brain injury in Montana.
Since 2006, BIAMT has operated the Brain Injury Help Line—a free, telephone-based follow-up-and-support service that links survivors and their families throughout the state to local information, resources, service providers, and other sources of support. Participation is a collaborative process that respects and encourages the involvement and choices of individuals with brain injury and their family members, while at the same time helping to address and meet their individual needs.
BIAMT is a strong advocate for prevention and believes in the importance of collaboration. Each year, BIAMT partners with other organizations to host free helmet giveaways. Since 2010, we have given away more than 3,000 helmets to kids. These events enable us to help protect heads and save brains.
The Brain Injury Alliance of Montana and our Brain Injury Help Line are here to help. For more information or to support us with a tax-deductible donation, please call 1-800-241-6442 or visit us online at www.biamt.org.