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August 2014 brain injury legislative update

The following August federal brain injury legislative update was prepared by the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA):

TBI Act Reauthorization

The United States Senate planned to pass TBI Act Reauthorization this week but further action on the bill will be taken in September. BIAA thanks Sens. Harkin (D-Iowa), Alexander (R-TN), Hatch (R-UT) and Casey (D-PA) for their continued leadership on passing this important legislation to the brain injury community.

Assisted Living TBI Pilot Program Extension

The U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed a $16 billion overall to the Department of Veterans Affairs Thursday night which included a three year extension to the Assisted Living TBI Pilot Program. Sens. Corey Booker (D-NJ) and Dean Heller (R-NV) introduced the Assisted Living Pilot Program for Veterans with Traumatic Brain Injury Extension Act, S.2607. The AL-TBI Extension Act authorizes the continuation of a critical VA program that provides intensive care and rehabilitation to veterans with complex brain injuries. AL-TBI consists of community-based residential/transitional rehabilitation programs around the country in which veterans are immersed in therapies for movement, memory, speech, and gradual community reintegration. This model of care allows veterans facing similar challenges to live together while receiving 24/7 care, which has yielded impressive results and helped rehabilitate hundreds of veterans from severe injuries that are notoriously difficult to treat. BIAA thanks Sens. Booker and Heller for their leadership and to Congress on extending this vital program to our Veterans with TBI.

U.S. Department of Education

On Tuesday, BIAA staff attended a meeting with Michael Yudin, Assistant Secretary of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services and other senior leadership at the Department to discuss New York State's Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) waiver extension which included a provision to test students with disabilities two grades below their enrolled grade level. On Thursday, the Department approved New York's ESEA Waiver Extension without Amendment 1. Amendment 1 was the provision that would have allowed NY to test students with disabilities at two grades below their enrolled grade. BIAA could not be more pleased that this provision was not included in the waiver - its removal means that thousands of students with disabilities including brain injury won't be taken off the track to graduation.

SAFE PLAY Act Introduced

On Thursday, Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09), Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA-24) introduced the Supporting Athletes, Families and Educators to Protect the Lives of Athletic Youth (SAFE PLAY) Act, a bill that would promote youth safety in athletic activities.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, participation in organized sports is on the rise. Almost 30 million children participate in youth sports in the U.S. This increase in participation has also led to an increase in injuries - more than 3.5 million kids under age 14 receive medical treatment for sports injuries each year, 21 percent of all traumatic brain injuries among U.S. children are associated with sports participation, and children ages 5 to 14 account for nearly 40 percent of all sports-related injuries treated in hospitals.

To address this, the bill would take a multipronged approach of research, community education, and federal support for school district to adopt best practices to keep kids safe, focusing on several areas, including heat exposure, CPR and AED training, concussion response, and energy drink consumption, to ensure children's safety in athletics and on campus.

Specifically, the SAFEPLAY Act would direct the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to:

•         Develop recommended guidelines for the development of emergency actions plans for student athletes

•         Develop information on the ingredients used in energy drinks and the potential side effects of energy drink consumption

•         Recommend guidelines for the safe use of energy drink consumption by students

•         Report to Congress on the number of sports related fatalities and catastrophic injuries and the cause

•         Develop and disseminate information about the health risks associated with exposure to excessive heat and humidity, and how to avoid heat-related illness

•         Assist schools in developing and implementing an excessive heat action plan to be used during all school-sponsored athletic activities that occur during periods of excessive heat and humidity

The bill would also help local education agencies develop and implement safer schools. The bill would provide assistance for school districts to develop and implement a standard plan for concussion safety and management and set up concussion management teams to respond to incidents on campus. It would also support schools by providing access to critical resources to teach students across the country the life-saving skills of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and how to use automated external defibrillators (AED).

Congress is out of session for the month of August and will return to Washington D.C. on September 8, 2014. Policy Corner will resume on September 12, 2014.

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