On September 21, 2011, the Senate Appropriations Committee considered an FY12 Labor Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor/HHS) bill, which contained TBI Act funding. In the past year, more than 50 programs have been cut from the Labor/HHS budget. However, largely through BIAA and NASHIA's advocacy, TBI Act funding has been sustained thus far.
Along with level funding, the Senate Appropriations Committee took BIAA and NASHIA's recommendation and included language in the bill report encouraging HRSA's work on a long-range plan for the Federal TBI Program. Specifically the report states:
"The Committee supports the efforts of HRSA to develop a long-range plan for the Traumatic Brain Injury program. The Committee encourages HRSA to collaborate with other Federal agencies during this process and to solicit broad input from consumers, States, professionals and care providers in order to ensure that the program maximizes resources related to the treatment and prevention of traumatic brain injury."
The support the Committee has shown for HRSA's ongoing work to elevate the Federal TBI Program lays important groundwork for TBI Act reauthorization as well as increased appropriations in future years. During meetings with Appropriations staff, BIAA has learned how much they value HRSA's willingness to work with stakeholders as well as collaborate with other agencies.
TBI Model Systems
Funding for the TBI Model Systems of Care program (TBIMS) also resides within the FY12 Labor/HHS bill; however, the TBIMS program does not currently have a congressional budget line item to target for specific funding levels. The program is funded at the agency level by money allocated to the Department of Education's National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR). Therefore, although the program is vital to brain injury research, Congress cannot guarantee that it remains consistently funded.
To address this issue, BIAA and other stakeholders representing the model system at JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute negotiated support for inclusion of clarifying language in the Senate Appropriations report from the co-chairs of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force and the office of Rep. Gabby Giffords, whose letters can be found on our website.
On September 23, 2011, BIAA learned that NIDRR sustained the same level of funding as FY11 and the committee included the following language in its report:
"The Committee strongly supports the Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems [TBIMS] Centers program funded by NIDRR. Almost 500 peer-reviewed publications have resulted from TBIMS research since 1987, bringing dramatic improvements to the treatment of traumatic brain injury for both civilian and military populations. The Committee is aware that the TBIMS Centers will compete for new 5-year awards in fiscal year 2012. The Committee bill included sufficient funds to support the current size of the TBIMS Centers program and to provide adequate resources to meet the research objectives of the TBI MS program. The Committee intends that funds provided will enhance the capability of the TBIMS Centers to conduct critical multi-center investigations, expand the TBIMS Centers' scope of intervention studies, maintain the ongoing high quality TBIMS Centers' longitudinal research while keeping pace with the increased number of participants followed, and promote continued collaboration to improve outcomes for civilians and military populations with traumatic brain injury. The Committee also commends NIDRR for establishing collaboration between the TMIMS Centers program and the Department of Veterans Affairs and encourages continuation of these efforts."
Although, this language is not binding on NIDRR, it clearly shows the intent of Congress to continue this program at a minimum of its current funding level.