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The bill, “Improving Lives by Ensuring Access to Brain Injury Treatment” (S.546/H.968) which was heard before the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Financial Services, has been championed by Senator Harriette Chandler and Representative Kimberly Ferguson.

“You don’t need to play professional football to get a brain injury – it can happen to anyone,” said Ted Johnson.  “The sad truth, though, is that many survivors cannot access medically necessary cognitive rehabilitation services because their insurance does not cover these services. I urge the Legislature to pass S.546/H.968 which would ensure that survivors of brain injuries have access to these critical services.”  

A panel of medical professionals testified and reinforced the need for cognitive rehabilitation for brain injury survivors.

“Following a brain injury, the brain develops networks of cells in response to interaction with the environment.  It is this neuroplastic feature that allows the development of new neural networks to replace those damaged in injury resulting in the restoration of physical and cognitive functioning,” said Dr. Christopher Carter, a clinical psychologist specializing in rehabilitation psychology and acquired brain injuries at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston.

“I have come as a brain injury medical director, a physician, and a healer to stand up and speak again today for all those that we have failed in Massachusetts because I know we can do better through post-acute cognitive rehabilitation. We are more than 12 years behind Texas' legislature on these issues.  It is time to take a stand with me and support this cognitive rehabilitation bill” said Dr. Ariel Savitz, MD., referring to the fact that Texas has already passed similar legislation.

As part of cognitive retraining, a Speech Language Pathologist can determine strategies to support cognitive communication performance.  “These might include modifying the environment to optimize function, limiting distractions, approaching one task at a time, and using techniques to support memory,” added Mary Ann Williams-Butler, supervisor speech language pathologist department at Emerson Hospital out-patient clinic and the Dr. Robert Cantu Concussion Center,

A panel of brain injury survivors and family members added their personal stories to show how they benefited from cognitive rehabilitation and how it was paid.

Sharon Balcom, whose teenage son suffered a brain injury in 2016, stated that her family spent over $50,000 out-of-pocket to pay for needed cognitive rehabilitation which was not covered by their insurance.   “I am here to tell you the overwhelming difference that cognitive rehabilitation has made in my son’s (and our family’s) life,” said Balcom.

Retired Marine Corp. Sargent John Nelson told the Committee “without cognitive rehabilitation, provided because I was in the military, I would not be doing as well as I am now and would probably not be here today.”

“I was shrink wrapping a boat for winter storage, I fell from a couple stories, and sustained many injuries including a traumatic brain injury, “explained Roberto Cabral.  He further noted that this was “a work-related injury and all medical procedures and cognitive therapy was covered by workers compensation.”

George Farrington stated “when I started cognitive therapy, I couldn’t even read “The Wheels on the Bus” to his child.  Today, I am standing here in front of all you reading this speech that I wrote.  My cognitive therapists gave me the tools I need to succeed.” 

Ted Johnson, three-time Super Bowl champion and a former linebacker for the New England Patriots, joined Jim Braude, host of WGBH’s Greater Boston. Johnson talked about his experiences and his efforts to support the cognitive rehabilitation bill, sponsored by state Senator Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester) and Representative Kim Ferguson (R-Holden).
Watch the interview

For more information about Advocacy at BIA-MA, contact Kelly Buttiglieri at 508-475-0032 or