Brain Injury Support Center – A rehabilitation sanctuary finds a new home
“Your brain is so integral to who you are, so when that’s fractured in some way, it’s the most challenging thing,” says Jim Kearns, a board member of Jodi House Brain Injury Support Center. “Our minds are at the very center of who we are.”
Brain injuries are all too common—they occur every seven seconds—and with them, lives are changed just as quickly.
Helping individuals with acquired head trauma, tumor, or stroke is at the very center of Jodi House, which was founded by family and advocates of Jodi Wustman, a 19-year-old Santa Barbara woman whose life changed forever when a drunk driver hit her. With locations in Santa Barbara and Solvang, the center has been serving the community since 1982 with a variety of programs—including peer support groups, classes in computers, ceramics, yoga, memory strategies, communication skills, speech, vocal training, art and music, as well as Nia dancing, Reiki treatments, and community outings—all designed to assist individuals living with a brain injury’s lingering effects.
Jodi House also provides respite for caregivers, explains executive director Kenneth Freeland. “The bulk of the people with brain injuries are able to live independently, but they are not able to work. They can’t drive, and their loved ones do not feel comfortable having them wander around downtown,” he says. “This is a place where they can come.”
“When people become members of our program, it’s for life,” adds Freeland. “A brain injury is something that, for the most part, our clients are going to struggle with their entire lives. In the broadest sense, we try to help people cope with their new lives. For them, it’s about finding alternate ways to reintegrate and get involved with the outside world.” Allowing people to stay productive, busy, and engaged with the world is also a huge part of Jodi House. “Another issue that Jodi House deals with isn’t just improving the abilities but helping people not to atrophy,” says Kearns.
The first way the community can get involved is, “If they or somebody they know has a brain injury, they can refer them to us so we can help. And it’s free—the number one thing we want to do is help people,” says Freeland. “We’re also always looking for volunteers and, of course, donations.” Jodi House receives
no funding from insurance companies, and donations are particularly useful now, since the organization recently moved into the former Chad’s Restaurant. Local contractor Tariq Kadri has remodeled the Chapala Street building, which an anonymous donor purchased, as a pro bono project. The challenge for Jodi House is to raise $1.75 million, at which point the donor will deed the building to Jodi House and allow the organization to have the money they raised for operations and expansion of its integral programs.
JODI HOUSE BRAIN INJURY SUPPORT CENTER 625 Chapala St., Santa Barbara, 805-563-2882, jodihouse.org.
BY LESLIE DINABERG