Clients upset at changes to Nanaimo Brain Injury Society

NANAIMO – Society expanding services and find new funding sources following review of operations.

The Nanaimo Brain Injury Society is shifting its programs and services to find additional revenue sources and reach out to more clients.

The society, formed in 1988, was located at 55 Victoria Rd. before it moved to 285 Prideaux St. in 2011. Until recently the society operated as a clubhouse for its members, but a review started in 2014 suggested expanding beyond the clubhouse-only format to serve more clients in the central Island.

Members and supporters were notified of proposed program changes in mid-March, but not all clients agree with the society’s next path.

Nicolete Vautier, a society member, said the changes came abruptly and members weren’t forewarned of the shift in mandate.

Vautier, who lives in Parksville and attended the clubhouse up to three days a week, said a counsellor’s and community support worker’s jobs were eliminated and social aspects of the society, including gardening and lunch-making programs, have been revamped or ended, disrupting a vital social network for dozen of members.

“They’ve rearranged the whole thing and they have affected people with trauma brain injuries and without counselling to direct us where to go, not giving us the opportunity to connect with phone numbers or e-mails, so that we can all stay in touch, because we always went there,” Vautier said. “We knew where our friends were.”

Markus Busby, society executive director, estimates the society currently serves about 600 people. He said the society needs to forge partnerships with other community organizations to raise public awareness of brain injury and secure additional funding sources. The society’s current annual budget is $180,000.

The society is working with Stroke Recovery B.C. and March of Dimes Canada to connect brain-injured patients with local resources to help them reintegrate into the community and continue their recoveries.

Busby said the society needs to connect with hidden patients, such as young people with strokes and brain injured people 18-30 – statistically the highest age category for brain injury, yet the society sees few of them.

There have also been some staffing changes.

“We do need to draw in a different skill set to try and meet some of these changes that we’re making,” Busby said, adding that support, networking, connections and peer mentoring programs are all still operating.

Vautier is concerned about the loss of the clubhouse.

“We want to draw awareness that there is a huge gap in services now that the clubhouse is gone … because we’re all in limbo. We have no place to go,” Vautier said.

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