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ISU hosts traumatic brain injury summit

Traumatic brain injury experts try to find funding

POCATELLO, Idaho - Traumatic brain injury experts from around the state met with Sen. Mike Crapo at ISU's Traumatic Brain Injury Summit on Tuesday to discuss the rising number of TBI's and the even more hard-hitting issue of finding funding to treat it.

Crapo, R-Idaho, is calling on the Obama administration to step up the attention given to people across the nation who are suffering from TBI.

"We are here for a special and important issue and that is the issue of traumatic brain injuries," Crapo said.

According to the Institute of Rural Health spokesman Russ Spearman, federal funding only measures up to $8 million in grants for TBI programs spread across 21 states.

"Even though we have been through some very difficult economic times, the fact that there is no state money for TBI's is problematic," Spearman said.

Idaho State University Associate Vice President and Executive Dean for the Division of Health Sciences Linda Hatzenbuehler said her school is the top institute in the nation for TBI research and development. Even so, the university is still seeing an empty wallet when it comes to receiving any sort of funding from the state for furthering TBI studies.

Also in attendance were those who shared their personal stories of overcoming TBI.

Denise O'Farrell gave a tearful speech about how she and her family have had to watch her now bedridden husband, Mike, suffer from the severe TBI he contracted after being hit by two roadside bombs in Iraq back in 2008.

After lobbying in front of congressional delegates in Washington, D.C. at one point, she said nobody has come forth to help her and her family obtain proper treatment and care for her husband.

"I was very surprised when they said there is no state funding for us," O'Farrell said. "This must be a priority for us."

According to some of the summit's panelists, their latest data shows in 2011 the VA spent more money on treatment drugs than the Department of Defense spent on (the outdated) Abram tanks, C-130 aircrafts, missiles, and Black Hawk helicopters combined.

Currently the Traumatic Brain Injury Treatment Act, which passed the House, will go before the Senate later this summer. The TBI summit panelists said they hope this new piece of legislation will provide more funding to this issue on a state level. Currently, the National Football League has given $30 million toward TBI programs across the nation.

Spearman said one reason why Idaho has not been seeing any of this funding is because the state is in the process of setting up a specific trust fund and has not secured any money specific toward TBI recovery programs.

He also said in the meantime, Idaho will be looking into acquiring TBI case management and therapy grants through private funding.

Follow Kaitlin on Twitter: @KaitlinLoukides

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