Blue color background with a person holding a tablet device

VOICES: Amplifying the Needs and Rights of the Brain Injury Community

Advocacy committee empowers individuals and drives change at Brain Injury Alliance of New Jersey

By Stephanie Spivak, Research Assistant, Center for Traumatic Brain Injury Research

Brain Injury Alliance kogo of a human shape head with light rays Voices Advancing the Brain Injury Community (VOICES) is one of two advocacy committees at the Brain Injury Alliance of New Jersey (BIANJ) dedicated to the needs, rights, and lives of people with brain injury. VOICES seeks to better the lives of people with brain injury and those close to them by providing a space for empowerment and social bonding. The group’s 300 (approximate) members meet monthly for discussions, events, and advocacy work. Members and their legislative advocacy network receive a monthly newsletter outlining current issues and events within the organization.

Navigating the world after brain injury can be isolating and daunting. As such, VOICES’ mission is to “champion and publicize the advocacy, rights, and needs of people who have survived a brain injury,” as described by their Director of Advocacy and Public Affairs Tom Grady. Brain injury is fundamentally life-changing as it creates novel barriers and challenges, with physical and mental recovery representing the tip of the iceberg. VOICES seeks to address issues affecting this community, from finances, healthcare, and public policy to the presentation and treatment of brain injury in the emergency room. Through an advocacy perspective, the group focuses on the needs of the community overall rather than individualized support; however, members may receive helpful resources.

Effecting change for the issues individuals with brain injury face often relies on public policy. An essential part of VOICES is building relationships with lawmakers to help implement this kind of change. Members have also had opportunities to involve themselves in legislative change by speaking at hearings concerning bills.

Capital Hill building at Washington, D.C. Currently, VOICES is working on recategorizing brain injuries as chronic conditions, shifting the focus from primarily short-term care. This shift could create resources for the future if an individual’s mental or physical condition declines as a result of brain injury, such as cardiovascular disease from being unable to walk. VOICES is collaborating with professionals advocating for similar changes like John Corrigan, PhD, ABPP, at The Ohio State University College of Medicine.

With VOICES, members are part of a community where they can express their concerns and ideas, gain a unique perspective through other individuals with lived TBI experience, become involved with legislature, stay informed about brain injury-related events, and gain access to beneficial resources.

Individuals with brain injuries, their loved ones, and others concerned with improving the lives of people with brain injuries are encouraged to get involved. If interested, contact Tom Grady, Director of Advocacy and Public Affairs, at 732-745-0200.

Text in quotes on a beige color banner