July 21, 1996
About 600 Western Australians a year suffer acquired brain injuries through disease or accidents such as car crashes and bashings according to a study released today.
According to the report, many of those affected are young men under the age of 30.
Many are living out their lives in State-run institutions or taking up hospital beds which could otherwise be used for elective surgery due to a lack of more suitable accommodation.
Yet there is very little in the way of a co-ordinated approach to providing accommodation and long-term support services.
Disability Services Minister Kevin Minson set up the Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) Implementation Committee chaired by Darling Range MLA John Day to draw together all the information and services relating to those with ABI and form a State plan.
"People with ABI are a neglected group," Mr Minson said.
"They and their families face very considerable difficulties and frustration in adapting to their changed circumstances.
"There is very little public awareness of ABI.
"For example, most of those who acquire accidental head injuries suffer them through car crashes.
"Many will be permanently incapacitated as a result yet public awareness of this aspect of car crashes is limited.
"The majority of police and other road safety advertising focuses on death and grief rather than the other major aspect which is long-term, often life-long, injuries."
Mr Minson said in addition to the impact on people's lives caused by the ABI, there was the added problem of finding their way through a complex system of services with little information available to help guide them through the maze.
"This report is aimed at changing this situation," he said.
The committee looked into services for two ABI groups - those injured in an accident and those injured as a result of stroke, brain tumour, meningitis or other `non-traumatic' causes.
Its main proposals include:
+ development of an effective case coordination process within the Health Department of WA to ensure people do not fall through gaps in the system;
+ a range of accommodation able to meet each person's particular needs;
+ a better ABI information service; and -
+ a review of motor vehicle accident compensation systems.
The plan emphasised the current lack of an integrated, co-ordinated system of services able to meet the needs of those with ABI or their carers.
Some were in hospital beds, others were in nursing homes designed for the elderly.
Mr Minson said a project currently under way involving providing specialised accommodation for a number of young people living in Government-funding nursing homes in Perth.
"The scheme, managed by the Disability Services Commission, will enable these people to live in the community with a partner, family or friends, with the support of a carer as needed as well as medical treatment and therapy," Mr Minson said.
"This is the first step in addressing one of the major issues addressed in the report - suitable accommodation options."
"The State Plan makes a number of strong recommendations and is a significant step towards addressing the needs of people with ABI and their families."
Acquired Brain Injury State Plan - Western Australia will be available for public comment for six weeks.
Media contact: Caroline Lacy 222 9595 or 222 9211