By Katie Demeria
Kathleen Mancini of Linden is working hard to raise awareness about a lack of services in the areas that is preventing her, and others with brain injuries like herself, from getting jobs.
Mancini is the leader of a Brain Injury Recovery Group in Winchester. She started the group through the Brain Injury Association of Virginia after suffering a brain injury seven years ago.
"The next really important step is to have case management services available," Mancini said. "Without that, people with brain injuries are lost."
Case management services provide the routes through which individuals who have suffered brain injuries to find jobs.
Brain injuries, Mancini said, can happen to anyone. Though the popular idea is they are limited to physical sports injuries, they can result from any situation in which the head is seriously injured, such as car accidents.
Mancini used herself is an example of the extreme circumstances in which most people with brain injuries live.
"I can't work still," she said. "Even though I'm doing so much better now, and I'm able to do targeted things like this, I have no resources. It's like I'm trying to do it with my hands tied behind my back and my brain not working."
Mancini worked consistently before her brain injury, but since then has not been able to get a job.
"It just highlights how difficult it is, even for people like me who are doing well now with a brain injury. It's still so hard," she said.
Virginia funds various case management programs for people with brain injuries throughout the commonwealth. The Shenandoah Valley, though, does not receive that funding.
"My sense of fairness is really bristled at the fact that, if you happen to live in this area of Virginia, you don't get the services that someone in, say, Richmond, gets," Mancini said.
Case management services are available in Northern Virginia and in Harrisonburg. And the funding, according to Mancini, is limited to those living in those areas.
"If you're living here, and you have a brain injury, you cannot even drive yourself to one of those places to get case management," she said. "But this is the time, this is the time when something could actually be done to get this here."
The budget being debated in Virginia's General Assembly includes $150,000 to "expand brain injury case management services," the proposed budget states.
With the assembly reconvening on March 24 to discuss the budget, Mancini said now is when she needs to work hardest to raise awareness and push for those funds to be included in the budget.
"It's a big job, I really need any help I can get," she said. "It's a small group of people that come together with the right cause at the right time that get things done, and this is the right case, and it's the right time, because they have the funding in Richmond.
"It's the perfect timing, it's the perfect chance."
Mancini will host a public meeting from 6:30-8:30 p.m. March 20 at Shenandoah University's Health Professions Building. She said experts from the community will be present and will talk about the importance of case management services.
"I work 10 times harder to get the basic things done," Mancini said. "I want people to see the things I do, and how hard I fight to do them. I want people to see that people with brain injuries are heroic because they're fighting the fight of their lives every day."
Those interested in getting involved can contact Mancini at TBI@mindspring.com.
Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org