When I accepted the job as Executive Director of Alabama Head Injury Foundation more than five years ago, I probably underestimated the impact that the tiny clause in my job description would have on my next five years. That clause read "other duties as assigned." For those of you who have written job descriptions, you know that it is a customary inclusion and one that should truly be read, especially in the world of small nonprofit, as "everything else we forgot to tell you." For me, it has meant significant time educating and meeting with state politicians and staff about the importance of supporting services for traumatic brain injury survivors.
Overall, most of these meetings have gone quite well. People are polite, recognize that TBI is an issue, and offer their support to whatever degree it is possible. This has fortunately led to the ability to change the name of the state trust fund supporting TBI survivors to make it more appropriate, and it is not the Alabama Head & Spinal Cord Injury Trust Fund. It has also led to the passage of a bill that introduced a $100 fee for all DUI offenders who enter into a deferred prosecution program. These bills became possible due to the wonderful support of Representative Philip Pettus and Senator Cam Ward.
As the number of TBIs continued to increase across our state, and the effective passage of these two legislative bills did not bring back the nearly $500,000 of annual revenue that AHIF once had, I knew that something transformational had to occur. Enter Governor Ivey's Chief of State, Jo Bonner. When I walked into his office at the State Capitol a few months ago, something just felt different. His assistant not only greeted me, but stayed with me while I waited, asking thoughtful questions and engaging in discussion about TBI. Chief of Staff Bonner, who had only been in the position for less than a month, generously gave of his time to meet with me, hear about the struggles TBI survivors face, and offered his support. But, he also had follow through. He met with the Budget Chairs from each legislative chamber, and with the State Budget Director, and the Governor's budget included designated funding for TBI survivor support in our state. There is still a long road ahead, but I could not be more thankful for this experience and hope for a positive outcome for the sake of the 2,700+ TBI survivors we are honored to serve.