Feb 05, 2010
Testimony is heard on two important bills affecting people with disabilities.
I'm sitting in the House Human Services Committee where the committee just heard testimony on a bill that I can't easily explain but have worked on for the last month. If House Bill 3618 is passed, people who are hired by folks with developmental disabilities or mental illness to provide assistance in the home or community would be registered with the Home Care Commission, receive workers compensation coverage and be allowed to vote to unionize.
My job in the hearing was to explain the latest set of amendments to the bill. I tried to make is as simple as possible but legislative eyes were glazing over. The upshot seemed to be that the Democrats like it and the Republicans don't. It looks like the biggest issue will be the cost of providing workers compensation coverage to the workers.
The committee is now hearing a bill that would set up the Traumatic Brain Injury Strategic Partnership Advisory Council. Senator Morrisette and Sherry Stock from the Brain Injury Association of Oregon are leading the testimony. Additional testimony from General Mike Caldwell of the Oregon Military Department centers on the epidemic of brain injury that has been experienced by service members coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan. General Caldwell notes that early identification and treatment is essential. He adds that the military has ignored the problem of TBI until recently. Things are now changing but the number of affected veterans has overwhelmed VA services.
HB 3692 creates information and referral services and an advisory committee that reaches across all departments of state government. Sherry notes that 80% of homeless individuals have TBI, particularly homeless veterans. Inmates in Oregon prisons are also affected in large numbers. About half of those with TBI acquire their injury through auto accidents. This is why the Advisory Council would be funded from fees charged on traffic violations.
May 16, 2009
The House Education Committee was inspired by the testimony of Max Condradt, a young man with TBI.
When Max Condradt was 17, he experienced a concussion during a high
school football game. His coach cleared him to play in a game the next
week. During that game he was tackled and, moments later, collapsed on
the sidelines and slipped into a five month coma. After he awoke, Max
began a long period of rehabilitation. Max's dad discovered that the
helmet the school had provided was old and did not meet minimum
standards. He and Max decided to take action to help others avoid what
Max has gone through. Max, who now lives in a group home, and his dad
worked with the The Brain Injury Association of Oregon (BIAOR) to bring
a bill to the state legislature to assure that coaches are educated
about brain injury and protect athletes from avoidable harm.
BIAOR has developed three bills for this legislative session:
1 – HB 2413 would add a $2 fee to the penalty paid for traffic violations. The resulting funds would be placed in a brain injury fund to provide TBI support services
2 – SB 381 would require all state-regulated group health insurance policies to cover cognitive rehabilitation.
3 – SB 348 would require all coaches at the elementary, middle and high school levels to have annual concussion identification training.
Yesterday, the House Education Committee held a public hearing on SB 348, dubbed “Max’s Law.” I testified briefly before the committee, recalling an incident just last year in which a lawyer friend of mind fell and hit his head while we were playing basketball. He was knocked out but soon revived and went to the sidelines to shake it off. He then wanted to come back in the game. He did, but after a few minutes of his wandering aimlessly around the court, we decided to take him to the hospital. He had experienced a serious concussion. My point was that even old coots like my friend (and I) don’t have the good sense to stop playing when we have our bell rung.
But as entertaining as I tried to be, the star of the hearing was Max. Whatever deficits he may experience, it was clear that Max’s exuberance and sense of humor were not affected by his injury. He inspired laughter and admiration in committee members who were at the end of a very demanding week of lawmaking.
Max was a victim of “second-impact syndrome.” After the brain sustains an injury it is highly vulnerable to more severe harm until it has had time to recover. Experts note that "concussion produces an energy crisis in the brain. A second concussion will cause such an energy demand that it will overwhelm the survival capability of the brain." Testimony at the hearing also noted that girl athletes now have a higher incidence of concussion than boys. Female players now experience about 29,000 concussions annually. Males have 21,000.
The committee passed SB 348 and sent it to the full House for a vote. Since it has already been passed by the Senate, it will most likely become law. Max, who was pumped by his legislative victory, gave me a hug as we left the hearing room. I thought: Max was probably a good football player, he’s already a great advocate.