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Collaborating With Houston VA and Memorial Hermann/TIRR, TIRR Foundation Receives Funding To Treat Combat Service Members Returning Home With Traumatic Brain Injuries

June 19, 2007

TIRR Foundation has received a $3M grant to fund Project Victory — a comprehensive rehabilitation/community re-integration program set in motion by TIRR Foundation to treat service members who have sustained a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) while serving in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq (OIF).

“Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) has become the signature wound of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts,” said Cynthia Adkins, Executive Director of the TIRR Foundation. “Returning combat veterans, who have sustained a TBI, need a comprehensive variety of rehabilitation programs and the support of all available resources in the community to help them successfully re-integrate into society.”

Toward this goal, TIRR Foundation brought together rehabilitation specialists to create Project Victory, an outpatient rehabilitation/community re-integration program for injured troops who have sustained a moderate to severe TBI. Project Victory is a collaborative program uniting medical doctors from the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center (MEDVAMC) in Houston with rehabilitation specialists from Memorial Hermann│TIRR Challenge Program, a brain injury rehabilitation program of Memorial Hermann│TIRR. The goal of Project Victory is to help combat service members with TBI achieve the maximum degree of return to their pre-injury level of functioning. This program will serve 65 service members annually who meet the criteria for care, and will be available without cost or regard to age, gender or ethnicity.

The increase in the number of service members sustaining a TBI in Iraq and Afghanistan compared to previous military conflicts is largely due to their almost daily exposure to improvised explosive devices and other explosive weapons. Additionally, the improved armor and equipment coupled with the extraordinary skill of first responders and military surgeons has reduced the death rate and dramatically increased the number surviving a TBI. To identify cases of TBI, health care providers at Department of Defense and VA medical facilities are now screening every service member returning from a combat theater who was wounded in an explosion, a vehicle accident or a fall, or by gunshot wounds to the face, neck or head. Reports on the number of combat veterans who have sustained a TBI vary from 10 percent to as high as 60 percent of those returning home due to an injury. Among those who have sustained a TBI, the largest group is the 21-year-olds. There is a consensus among medical responders that the incidence of TBI in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflict is far greater than in previous military conflicts, and more must be done to identify these service members and provide them with the rehabilitative care they deserve.

Community re-integration will help combat veterans achieve the greatest degree of independence in their daily lives as medically possible. A designated family member or care giver of the injured service member will participate as an integral part of the rehabilitation team and an important element of their progress. Together, Project Victory staff and the service member’s caregiver will assess progress and revise goals based on the patient’s changing life situation. This will ensure a more successful transition from rehabilitation back into the home and community environment.

TIRR Foundation, in collaboration with Memorial Hermann│TIRR and MEDVAMC, received a three-year grant for Project Victory from the Iraq Afghanistan Deployment Impact Fund of the California Community Foundation. The Iraq Afghanistan Deployment Impact Fund was established in 2006 to address the unmet needs of men, women and families affected by deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan.

About TIRR Foundation:

TIRR Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to a mission of improving the quality of life for people who have sustained neurological damage by supporting pioneering research programs and advancements in rehabilitative medicine and educational programs. TIRR Foundation is classified as a public charity under 170(b)(1)(A)(vi) and 509(a)(1) of the IRS Code. www.tirrfoundation.org

About MEDVAMC:

MEDVAMC’s goal is to ensure every seriously injured or ill serviceman and woman returning from combat receives easy access to benefits and world-class service. Combat veterans have special health care eligibility. For two years after discharge, these veterans have special access to VA health care, even those who have no service-connected illness. Veterans can become “grandfathered” for future access by enrolling with VA during this period. This covers not only regular active-duty personnel who served in Iraq or Afghanistan, but also Reserve or National Guard members serving in the combat theaters. Veterans with service-related injuries or illnesses always have access to VA care for the treatment of their disabilities without any time limit, as do lower-income veterans. Additional information about VA medical eligibility is available at http://www.va.gov/healtheligibility. To contact the MEDVAMC OEF/OIF Coordinator Fern Taylor, call (713) 794-7034.

About Memorial Hermann│TIRR: Founded in 1959 in the Texas Medical Center, Memorial Hermann│TIRR is a not-for-profit rehabilitation provider serving the needs of individuals who have sustained catastrophic injury or illness. In addition to a 116-bed hospital, Memorial Hermann│TIRR includes Memorial Hermann│TIRR Challenge Program, a community re-entry program for brain injury survivors, Memorial Hermann│TIRR Outpatient Therapy Services, and TIRR Rehabilitation Centers, a network of outpatient therapy facilities. TIRR (The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research) merged within the Memorial Hermann Healthcare System in July 2006.

About Memorial Hermann

An integrated healthcare system, Memorial Hermann is known for world-class clinical expertise, patient-centered care, leading edge technology, and innovation. The system, with its exceptional medical staff and 19,000 employees, serves southeast Texas and the greater Houston community. Memorial Hermann’s 16 hospitals include three hospitals in the Texas Medical Center, two long-term care facilities, three heart & vascular institute locations and nine suburban hospitals. The system also operates numerous imaging, sports medicine and rehabilitation, and surgery centers, a Wellness Center, a chemical dependency treatment center, a home health agency, a retirement community and a nursing home. To learn more about Memorial Hermann, visit www.memorialhermann.org.




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