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Congressman Leonard Lance Unveils Plan to Streamline Care for Families of Children With Brain Injuries

New Bill Announced at Overlook Medical Center

SUMMIT, NJ JULY 2011 – Congressman Leonard Lance (NJ-07), announced that he will introduce legislation that would establish a standardized system of care that will be more easily accessible to families of children who have suffered brain injuries.

Alongside advocates for pediatric brain injury survivors and their families in the new Thomas Glasser Caregivers Center at Overlook Medical Center, Lance said that the National Pediatric Acquired Brain Injury (PABI) Plan Act will be introduced when the House of Representatives returns to session.

The PABI Plan would develop a seamless, standardized, evidence-based system of care that is universally accessible for millions of families who have a child or young adult suffering from brain injuries, which are the leading cause of death and disability for American youth.

“When a child suffers a brain injury, every American family is confronted with difficult decisions in terms of care, research and support,” the congressman said. “Systems of care are different from state to state, random from school district to school district and vary from one doctor’s office to another. What is needed is a national clearing house of information and resources for children impacted by brain injuries and their families.”

A significant number of treatments and programs for brain injuries exist, such as those found at Atlantic Neuroscience Institute, based at Overlook Medical, which offers high-quality care for stroke and concussion, as well as other neurological problems and disorders.

“Significant medical advances in neuroscience and technology, including functional brain imaging and genomics, can dramatically improve outcomes in the lives of children and young adults with brain injury,” said Alan Lieber, president of Overlook Medical.

However, to date, there has been no system in place to collect, correlate and compare data among patients and programs throughout each state and the United States.

Specifically, Lance’s legislation would create a national network of 52 State Lead Centers of Excellence, one for each state, as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The responsibility of implementing the PABI Plan would be based on each state’s unique demographics, geography, laws and infrastructure, financing and causes of brain injuries without duplicating current practices.

The legislation will cover the entire continuum of care from prevention, treatment in acute medical facilities, reintegration back into the schools, communities and homes and then transitioning into an adult system of greater independent living.

Joseph Rempson, MD, co-medical director of the Concussion Center at Overlook Medical, said at the press conference that the PABI Plan would help integrate resources that families need into a simpler and more helpful system.

Rempson said that very often, families are unaware of services available to help their children or even where to find those services. Several parents expressed such frustrations at outreach events hosted last year by the Overlook Concussion Center for families with teenagers who had experienced brain injuries. Rempson added that Lance’s bill will help alleviate the obstacle to such knowledge.

“Why is this bill so important? Hopefully, it will allow all of these services to be put into a package so that people will know where to go and give these families and youngsters a future,” Rempson said.

Patrick Donohue, founder of the Sarah Jane Brain Foundation, knew the plight these families face all too well. The foundation is named in honor of Donohue’s daughter, Sarah Jane, now 6 years old, who suffered brain and other injuries after being shaken by a caretaker as an infant. Donohue likened the experience of navigating care for a brain-injured child as seeing a path of footprints in the sand, left by other families in a similar situation, swept away by the ocean, leaving one with no direction.

“We need to learn from our shared experiences, which this bill is all about,” said Donohue, who spoke at the press conference.

“This is a historic day for the millions of American youth who suffer from the number one leading cause of death and disability, brain injury, as well as their families,” Donohue said. “Congressman Lance’s bill would ensure families won’t have to reinvent the wheel when their child is impacted by a brain injury.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 765,000 American youth aged 25 and younger enter an emergency department every year with a new traumatic brain injury. More than 80,000 are hospitalized and more than 11,000 die annually.

Barbara Geiger-Parker, president and CEO of the Brain Injury Association of New Jersey, said that from 2004 through 2007, in New Jersey, 100,000 children went to emergency rooms with traumatic brain injury; 7,500 children were admitted as inpatients; and 200 children died.

Geiger-Parker added that brain injuries leave a number of ongoing physical, cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and socio-economic consequences, including seizures, balance and speech difficulties; challenges with attention, concentration, communication, organization, memory, and problem-solving; anxiety, depression, mood swings, irritability, social isolation, aggression, disinhibition, inappropriate language and behaviors; unemployment, underemployment and incarceration.

“Therefore, it is imperative that today’s children with brain injury receive the services and supports to maximize their recovery, enhance their quality of life, and ensure that they have the best chance possible to live productive and meaningful lives. The bill Congressman Lance is to introduce is a step toward realizing these ends,” Geiger-Parker said.

Rempson said that since the Concussion Center began about five years ago, it has treated about 3,000 patients. For many patients, especially young athletes, treatment also means addressing the social and behavioral effects from an inability to play the sports in which they suffered brain injuries.

“It’s not about that sport,” Rempson said. “It is about the identity of that individual who played that sport.”

Diane Gooch, chairwoman of Strong New Jersey, said that treatment and education of brain injuries have not received the attention or funding that they deserve.

“It’s the number one cause of death and disability in children,” Gooch said. “How could we have allowed this to have gone on so long?”

Lance’s bill has bipartisan support, with co-sponsors including New Jersey Rep. Steve Rothman (NJ-09), a Democrat, as well as Reps. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and Pete Sessions (R-TX).

About Atlantic Health System
Atlantic Health System is one of the largest non-profit health care systems in New Jersey, comprised of Morristown Medical Center, Overlook Medical Center in Summit and Newton Medical Center. The three medical centers – all accredited by The Joint Commission – have a combined total of 1,308 licensed beds and more than 2,750 affiliated physicians providing a wide array of health care services to the residents of Northern and Central New Jersey. Specialty service areas include advanced cardiovascular care, pediatric medical and surgical specialties, neurology, orthopedics, and sports medicine. Each of these programs has earned top ratings and recognitions in their respective fields. Atlantic Health System is the official health care partner of the New York Jets and an official health care provider of the New Jersey Devils.

Morristown Medical Center’s Gagnon Cardiovascular Institute performs more heart surgeries than any other hospital in New York or New Jersey, and is one of 20 facilities across the country to perform catheter-based repair and replacement of valves on both sides of the heart. Atlantic Health System’s spine program – where surgeons perform more spine surgery than anywhere else in New Jersey – is one of just 13 hospitals across the country that has received the Gold Seal of Approval™ from The Joint Commission, achieving Disease-Specific Care Certification for cervical and lumbar spine treatments. With the Atlantic Neuroscience Institute based at Overlook Medical Center, the hospital serves as the hub for the New Jersey Stroke Network, and serves about 40 percent of the state’s stroke patients. The system’s Goryeb Children’s Hospital offers more than 100 board-certified physicians in 20 pediatric specialties. Morristown Medical Center is designated a Level I Regional Trauma Center by the American College of Surgeons and a Level II by the state of New Jersey.

Atlantic Health System has been chosen for the past three consecutive years by FORTUNE® as one of the magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For®.” The organization has also been recognized four times by AARP as one of the “Best Employers for Workers over 50.” Inside Jersey magazine partnered with Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. and ranked Morristown Medical Center as the No. 1 hospital in New Jersey and the No. 1 hospital for treatment of heart failure and coronary surgery in the state. The survey findings also establish Overlook as No.1 for the treatment of neurological disorders and No. 2 for stroke treatment in NJ. Atlantic Health System is a Major Clinical Research Affiliate with The Cancer Institute of New Jersey and is the primary academic and clinical affiliate in New Jersey of Mount Sinai School of Medicine and The Mount Sinai Hospital.

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