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The mission of Brain Injury Services of SWVA is to help children and adults living with brain injury improve the quality of their lives and reintegrate into family and community.
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Dominion Generation: Brain Injury Services awarded grant

November 15, 2013

Brain Injury Services of Southwest Virginia (BISSWVA) is pleased to announce that they have received a donation of $5,000 from Dominion Generation to help support the Community Living Connection (CLiC) program which connects survivors of brain injuries in a community learning environment via the Internet.

Greg Edwards, Media and Community Relations manager for Dominion Generation, is excited to contribute to this ground-breaking program which targets rural communities throughout Southwest Virginia.

Edwards states, “Norton is a prime location to benefit from the CLiC program, and Dominion is proud to be able to support the community in this manner.”

CLiC is a telehealth program which combines assistive technology and the Internet to assist in providing vital post-acute brain injury supports to people living with brain injury. Primarily, the program seeks to create a learning community among brain injury survivors living in rural settings.

BISSWVA’s Executive Director Krystal Thompson shares that “CLiC participants are continuing to experience positive results through this innovative program. Now that we have completed our second year, we are learning more ways in which survivors’ lives have improved.

“They tell us, ‘CLiC made more of a difference in my attitude and feelings than medications or other counselors.’”

Brain Injury Services of Southwest Virginia is a 501c3 non-profit organization with a mission to create and sustain an organization which helps brain injury survivors and their families in Southwest Virginia. Their goal is to make a positive, measurable difference in a survivor’s abilities to fulfill their service potential and optimize their re-integration into their families and communities.


Brain Injury Services of Southwest Virginia Gives Away New Bike Helmets to Children at the Preston Park Recreation Center

July 25, 2013

ROANOKE, VA — On Monday, July 22, Brain Injury Services of SWVA (BISSWVA) visited the Preston Park Recreation Center in Roanoke to teach bicycle safety to prevent brain injury and to present new bicycle helmets to an eager group of children attending Roanoke City Parks and Recreation’s Summer P.L.A.Y. program at the Preston Park Recreation Center. The helmets were purchased using a grant that BISSWVA received from the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School (SRTS).

The bicycle training was delivered by BISSWVA staff Melissa Barnes and Mae Johnson. “It’s been wonderful to be able to work with Roanoke City’s Parks and Recreation staff to present bike safety lessons to their program’s participants.  Being able to give away helmets to children who need them was the icing on the cake,” stated Ms. Johnson. “The children really picked up on their new skills quickly and seemed excited to start riding with their new bike helmets,” she added.

Brain Injury Services of SWVA is a 501c3 non-profit organization with a mission to create and sustain an organization that helps brain injury survivors and their families in Southwest Virginia. Our goal is to make a positive, measurable difference in a survivor’s abilities to fulfill their service potential and optimize their reintegration into their families and communities.


General Assembly Commends Founder

April 2, 2012

ROANOKE, VA — Fran Rooker, founder of Brain Injury Services of SWVA, has received commendation from the Virginia General Assembly for her volunteer efforts which changed the quality of health care in Southwest Virginia. Two Joint Resolutions recognized Rooker as one of only three statewide recipients of the national Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Community Health Leader award in the program’s twenty-year history.

After the 1997 death of their son Jason, Rooker and her husband Greg, a former community newspaper owner and publisher, founded The Jason Foundation in 1998 and Brain Injury Services of SWVA in 2000. The latter organization now provides direct services throughout an 11,000 square mile region of the Commonwealth, assisting people with brain injuries and their families in rebuilding their lives. Additionally, it provides regional brain injury support for the Virginia Wounded Warrior Program.

Rooker’s initiation of a collaboration between the Virginia Tech Department of Assistive Technology, Radford University, and Brain Injury Services of SWVA resulted in the development of the telehealth program (CLiC) Community Living Connection (“Creating Connections” Roanoke Times: December 18, 2011). The innovative project provides post-acute brain injury supports, and creates a learning community for brain injury survivors living in rural areas. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation award provided major funding for its development.

Senator Phillip Puckett and Delegate Joseph Yost presented Rooker’s commendation Friday, March 23, during a Brain Injury Awareness Month luncheon in Wytheville. Co-patrons of Senate Joint Resolution No. 469 were Senator Puckett and Senator John Edwards. A separate House Joint Resolution initiated by former Delegates Dave Nutter and Jim Shuler, and Senator Ralph Smith, was patroned by Delegate Yost.


Sunday, September 2, 2001
Agency turns tragedy into hope for people with brain injuries

The Roanoke Times by Jenn Burleson (jennb@roanoke.com)

Full Article Listed Below

Agency turns tragedy into hope for people with brain injuries
Sunday, September 2, 2001 The Roanoke Times by Jenn Burleson

Brain Injury Services of SWVA offers help to live independently. The organization grew out of the Jason Foundation, which was begun by a couple soon after their son died.

PULASKI — He longed for an independent life and his own apartment like other rambunctious teenagers, but that seemed to be an impossible dream.

Joshua Guthrie's boyish treeclimbing mistake left him with a brain injury six years ago. While the 18-year-old graduated with honors from Pulaski High School last year, he couldn't manage his schedule. He didn't know how to cook much more than a microwave dinner. And he constantly relied on his grandmother to clean his laundry and drive him around.

He was a wheelchair-bound teenager trapped in a child’s world.

But his life is changing. For a few weeks, he has lived alone in an apartment. Once a week, a service coordinator from the new Roanoke organization Brain Injury Services of SWVA comes to his Pulaski apartment to help him learn independence.

Guthrie's family and others like them owe much of their changed lives to a little boy named Jason who died four years ago.

Greg and Fran Rooker formed the Jason Foundation after their son died of a brain injury. They planted the seeds that would sprout into new brain injury services for the Roanoke and New River valleys. The foundation, an outlet to share information and raise money, developed Brain Injury Services of SWVA as a separate organization. Through the new agency, brain injury clients get one-on-one services that previously weren't available in Southwest Virginia.

The foundation has also helped reignite an education program at George Washington University that trains students to understand brain injuries. There is no other program like it in the country.

It all started in June 1996.

Jason Rooker was playing while his parents worked in the yard at their home near Claytor Lake. The boy tied a rope to the branch of a tree. The he either fell or jumped from a 5-foot-tall fence. The rope was choking him, and he would have died if his parents had not found him quickly and administered cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

He lived for 15 months, but the brain injury made him much like a newborn who needed to be fed and clothed.

The Rookers spent months searching for information to help their child. They discovered that most people knew little about brain injuries. Even doctors don't have access to all the information and resources available.

They formed the Jason Foundation shortly after his death. Through the foundation, the Rookers dispensed brain injury information to people and raised money to help victims.

“Greg and I have said he [Jason] must be up there laughing at how hard we're working down here,” Fran Rooker said from her office in Radford. “Sometimes I have very hard days and I wish that none of this had happened. On the other hand, if it had never happened, there would be a lot of people in Southwest Virginia that wouldn't have the services they need.”

Neurologist David Thurman of the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion said his organization estimates that traumatic brain injuries leave more than 80,000 people with long-term or permanent disability. Recent data suggests that at least one-third of the people hospitalized with traumatic brain injury may have long-term consequences. Effects can include memory problems and difficulty making decisions.

The Jason Foundation addressed those needs. As the foundation grew, the Rookers decided they weren't doing enough. They were helping people find resources, but they weren't directly working with them. They started pulling information together to create a new agency that could work one-on-one with brain injury clients. Brain Injury Services of SWVA was formed.

The Jason Foundation has stepped back from some of its direct involvement with clients. Now the organization's focus is on getting better legislation to help brain injury patients and to continue educating others about brain injuries.

“This is a public health care issue. This is the first time the Southwest has had a voice to ask for funding," Rooker said. "We're just here is Southwest Virginia and hoping the work we do reaches further than that.”

Limited resources and people were available at the state level to reach out to brain injury patients. Often, patients don't know where they should go to get the services they need.

Andrea Lewis, director of program services for Brain Injury Services of SWVA, said many brain injury clients don't qualify for help from Community Services. Instead, they are on their own after they get out of the hospital, searching for services that could make their lives easier. That's where Brain Injury Services of SWVA steps into the picture.

Since July, service coordinations have evaluated and paired clients with other organizations that can help them. The assistance can be anything from home modifications and behavioral training to recreation and leisure. The only other similar program is in Fairfax.

Brain injury patients must be at least 16 years old and need assistance in two or more areas of their life.

Service coordinators also work directly with patients. Kristin Beindorf visits Joshua Guthrie once a week. She helps him set goals and teaches him basic chores such as cooking. He recently moved out on his own for the first time.

“It's like no rules and stuff,” Guthrie joked after he had been living in his own apartment for two weeks. “I like making decisions and stuff. I'm grown up and everything.”

Now he's taking his first class at New River Community College and planning for a career as a social worker.

“It's been hard, and I'm happy he’s come as far as he has,” said Guthrie’s grandmother, Pat Guthrie. “Part of this wouldn't be possible without Brain Injury Services.”

Service coordinators also work with clients’ families. They give them personal support and help them with families in similar situations.

Because of the help they are getting from Brain Injury Services, Joshua Guthrie's grandmother is able to focus more on her life rather than spend all of her time looking after him.

“I really don't know what I would have done without these people," she said. "I was making it; I made it for four years, but I don't feel so alone anymore.”

Brain Injury Services' fees are based on income. There is no charge for patients on supplemental income or Medicaid. Applicants can refer themselves to the organization or they can go through another agency. By the end of the year, service coordinators expect to work with at least 50 people.

The New River Valley Health Foundation and the Carilion Health Fund kicked in funding to help Brain Injury Services get started. The organization has enough money to continue working with patients until June. After that, it will depend on more grants or state funding.


Brain Injury Services of SWVA can be reached at 540-344-1200.

Jenn Burleson can be reached at 540-381-1669 or jennb@roanoke.com

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“Brain Injury Services of SWVA is funded in part by state general funds appropriated by the Virginia General Assembly and administered by the
Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services”