As many as 80 per cent of adults and more than 50 per cent of youth in the criminal justice system have a history of traumatic brain injury (TBI). Concussions and other severe brain injuries are highly prevalent among the most vulnerable individuals in our society. This at-risk population often includes people who are homeless or precariously housed, survivors of abuse and intimate partner violence, individuals who find themselves in the criminal justice system, as well as refugees and indigenous persons. This population often faces immense challenges in finding treatment and support for their traumatic brain injuries.
These challenges prompted long-time Leasider Catherine Wiseman-Hakes to launch The Compassionate Justice Fund in 2021.
Catherine Wiseman-Hakes, Ph.D., is a registered speech-language pathologist and clinical neuroscientist. A self-described ‘neuro-geek,’ she says she has always been fascinated by the brain and human behaviour. She has spent her clinical and research career working to better understand the factors affecting recovery from a TBI and developing ways to support positive outcomes and improved quality of life. She is also a mother to three now young adult sons, all former Leaside High School students.
A completely volunteer-run organization, The Compassionate Justice Fund, working under the umbrella of the Ontario Brain Injury Association, helps bridge the gap in funding for rehabilitation services for marginalized, vulnerable individuals who have experienced a TBI. The program is eligible to people in Ontario, 16 and older, and those without access to other funding for services. Under the guidance of a well-respected steering committee, funding applications are reviewed and awarded twice a year.
One recipient, Isaac, had been an “A” student who, after sustaining numerous concussions playing hockey, saw his grades slip, got involved with drugs, left hockey, and was eventually evicted from his family home. Now in his mid-30s, Isaac struggles with substance abuse, is currently homeless, and has become involved in the criminal justice system. The fund will help provide financial support for Isaac to receive the rehabilitation services he needs.
Navigating the medical and mental health systems is always challenging. As a vulnerable individual, trying to do this following a concussion or TBI can be nearly impossible.
To find out more about the fund, visit https://compassionatejusticefund.org.
This article was guest contributed by Stan Flemming.