Hi, I haven’t posted since May, but I have been busy with brain injury work. As I’ve found my stride in remote efforts, the brain trauma tasks have continued with some months’ long work that is now wrapping up.
I’ve increased my participation with National Association of State Head Injury Administrators (NASHIA), joining to maintain connection with the brain trauma community, as I have shifted toward policy work rather than speaking. After all, the experience of brain injury doesn’t go away, does it? In fact, learning to cope in the separate existence is much like the first experience I had, of resting at home, relearning many skills and looking for a way to rejoin the world with my new set of abilities and adjustments.
I’ve been contributing to the Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Advisory and Leadership Group (TAL) and the Human Services Research Institute this year. A further step was being asked to help rewrite a full participation guide, to bring current how to invite and encourage full participation at events and opportunities for individuals with brain injury, their support groups and caregivers. It was good to really dig in and read the various changes and updates in the language, funding and services available and update them. A new challenge for me was clarity in writing. On this go-round we are working independently and then joining our comments to look at the overall cohesiveness and needs.
I also was asked to recap the process and history of how Texas law 1338, 84 (R), Naishtat, became law, as I had prepared and presented to legislators in the Texas law and federal introduced bill. This law passed to protect individuals with brain injury through training on recognition and constructive response for law enforcement, first responders and other parties. HB 1338 was passed in 2015 and this year has been introduced as H.R. 6008 – 116th Congress (2019-2020): TBI and PTSD Law Enforcement Training Act by Representative Bill Pascrell (D), 9th Congressional District, New Jersey.
Since I spoke on the Congressional Briefing Panel on Brain Injury Awareness Day, March 4, I’ve had several new states, groups and individuals become interested in this work: Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina and Minnesota; the U.S. Senate, a strategy firm, and additional Representatives.
In June of this year I got the first notice of interest of HB 1338 attached to conversations about police brutality. The tagline I had as I worked to inform the state of Texas, and then in Washington, DC, was “to be different is not to be guilty.” My background is the difference of disability but the fact is there are other differences that my own one night do touch.
So circumstance may bring me full circle, to sharing again why “to be different is not to be guilty” and help toward all of us learning together a positive way to move forward.
I’m also a writer, and had a new book come out this summer, my website for that is CheryKerrBooks.com. I write under my given name and you’ll find bit of my brain injury work and experience there, and some of how I write my characters through difficulties, here. As a number of people are looking for and reading about my work, you can reach me through either place.
We lost a strong brain injury advocate this year. I knew and worked with Bill Roof on brain injury matters in Texas on the Traumatic Brain Injury Advisory Council. In 2016, he suggested a trip for me outside of Texas about HB 1338. On this trip, I went to share the new Texas law with groups in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine. The reception we got was very supportive and I started my national work toward the bill Representative Pascrell introduced on February 27 of this year.
Bill was a staunch advocate, a good friend and example of the grassroots work that is the heart of brain injury advocacy and accomplishments.
I miss him.
One of the first things I did that began my learning how to live with a brain injury, was to fill out postcard requests to neighbors to contribute to a nonprofit organization, the March of Dimes. I addressed 10 cards, put stamps on them and walked to the corner mailbox to mail them. And walked home. That was one of the first times I didn’t get lost outside my own front door.
Representative Don Bacon (R), 2nd Congressional District, Nebraska, wrote me a note about speaking on March 4, saying how much work we’ve done, and how much there still is to do. That note is on my refrigerator door so I see it every day. There is much still to do.