Brain Injury Patients Gaining New Independence Thanks To Massachusetts Program
Thanks to a 2008 court decision in the federal class action lawsuit of Hutchinson v. Patrick, people in Massachusetts suffering from brain injuries have since been able to leave the confinement of nursing homes to live and rehabilitate unencumbered in group homes or other living arrangements, thanks to the inception of the Acquired Brain Injury Waiver Program. Led by Cathy Hutchinson, more than 9,000 persons with brain injuries were represented in this case that reinforced the liberties awarded by the ADA and Medicaid Act.
Fifty-four years old at the time, Hutchinson had lived in a nursing home for a decade as the result of a brain injury; however, she, on behalf of so many, believed that patients like her deserved to be free of discrimination in their treatment. According to the ADA and Medicaid Act, institutionalized patients are supposed to be protected from any discrimination, and they are supposed to receive all of the community services that any other patients normally receive.
Thanks to this lawsuit, Massachusetts now employs a waiver program that allows patients with acquired brain injuries the ability to re-join their communities, instead of being confined to nursing homes. According to the Boston Globe, 134 patients in Massachusetts have already benefited from the program, which will create a maximum cap of 300 patients for the first 3 years of the program. Unfortunately, there are as many as 8,000 people in the state who may be eligible for release from nursing homes. The amount of patients eligible to receive these waivers is expected to increase beyond the 3-year term.
The program is being managed by the Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts, which has been assisting brain injury patients and their families since 1982. The BIAM is a private, nonprofit organization that works with the state’s Department of Health, Veterans Administration, Rehabilitation Commission, Office of Health and Human Services, and even the DMV to help brain injury victims.
Once a patient is granted a waiver, it can take up to 6 months for the BIAM to commence the re-introduction of patients into their community. Some patients can also take longer than others. The BIAM then creates an individual case file and assigns a case worker, so that the organization can keep in constant contact and help make the transition as easy and convenient as possible. The Boston Globe also acknowledges that some patients are even now living on their own, thanks in part to the adaptation of their single apartments with specialized equipment and electronics that assist them with their day-to-day activities.