Sacramento - Senator Scott Wilk, R - Antelope Valley, announces the introduction of Senate Bill 283 (SB 283), a measure which will allow young Californians who have suffered a traumatic brain injury between age 18 and 22, to access regional center disability services. This measure will bring California into conformance with the federal threshold and that of 38 other states. Currently these services are unavailable in California if a developmental disability, such as traumatic brain injury, occurs after the age of 18.
"I can't even imagine the horror a family goes through when a child suffers a traumatic brain injury; let alone to discover your child is ineligible for services simply because he or she is over 18 years old," said Wilk. "The medical community believes the brain continues to develop until at least 22 years of age, so it makes sense for California's eligibility threshold to match scientific data."
The need for SB 283 came to Senator Wilk's attention from a meeting he had with James O'Hara of Castaic, a constituent whose son suffered a severe injury to his brain in a devastating car accident shortly after his 18th birthday, which made him ineligible for even the basic rehabilitation therapy services needed to restore normal functioning such as speech, walking, and self-care.
"My son was a gentle soul, a talented sketch artist and model student who worked two jobs to buy his first car at age 16", said O'Hara. "At 18 his brain injury reduced him to a vegetative state. As a parent, imagine the pain. You can't. It was so far beyond anything I thought possible to endure. I knew I'd never experience joy again. I was wrong. After years of exhaustive rehabilitation efforts, sometimes creating resources that weren't available to us, my son is coming back to us in steps. Imagine the joy."
Current California law defines a developmental disability, such as autism or traumatic brain injury, as one that originates before an individual attains 18 years of age; continues, or can be expected to continue, indefinitely; and constitutes a substantial disability for that individual. SB 283 would modify the developmental disability definition to raise the age of onset to 22 years.
"Our regional centers specialize in providing community-based services that enable individuals with developmental disabilities such as traumatic brain injury, to achieve their full potential and highest level of self-sufficiency," Wilk added. "Isn't that what we want for people and families with these types of traumas?"
"When I think of young brain injury victims and their families just beginning their journey, my heart goes out," says O'Hara. "I know the uncertain road before them and their need for support. That support can make the difference between getting their loved one back, or spending the rest of their lives in a nursing home. It's been said that one measure of a nation's greatness is how it treats its weakest citizens. When they're unable to advocate for themselves, we are the stewards of their rights."