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Vancouver Island non-profit calls for more support for women with brain injuries from violent partners

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A Vancouver Island non-profit is calling for more support for women who suffer a brain injury at the hands of a violent partner.

The Cridge Centre for the Family provides care for about 70 women fleeing an abusive partner each year through its 46 units of housing.

According to statistics on the non-profit’s website, one in three women will experience intimate partner violence, and of those women, 92 per cent will suffer at least one brain injury. That works out to over 200,000 women a year.

Candace Stretch, manager of supportive housing and family services for the Cridge Centre for the Family, said brain injuries can lead to daily challenges with things like memory and organization.

The staff that work with brain injury survivors have seen those kinds of issues lead to bigger problems.

“The Ministry of Children and Family Development gets involved because they’re having issues getting their kids to school,” said Measha Gallagher, intimate partner violence brain injury programmer for the Cridge Centre for the Family.

“I think most of our street population of women have brain injuries. I think most of our women that experience addiction issues probably have brain injury,” said Stretch.

Through its 20 spaces for its donor-funded intimate partner violence and brain injury service, the Cridge Centre has been offering supports for the last few years to stop women from falling through the cracks.

“We know that early intervention with brain injuries is important because we want to be able to help folks repave the way and the paths in the brains to be able to do the tasks that may be impacted,” said Gallagher.

Staff say no two brain injuries are alike and the support given to survivors in the program to help them recover is based on the individual’s needs.

The housing where this work is taking place is not always adequate, since some women’s injuries have left them with physical disabilities or unable to climb stairs where the bedroom or washroom are.

The Cridge also runs Macdonald House in Saanich’s Strawberry Vale neighbourhood, which cares for men with brain injuries. That facility has 10 bedrooms on one floor, with wide halls and doorways. It was purpose-built in 1991.

With more than 30 years of experience in treating brain injury survivors, staff have learned a lot about helping them recover and how to make the most of their lives.

“Without that support when they need it, they’ll fall through the cracks and sadly be part of the difficulties we’re seeing with our homeless population,” said Geoffrey Sing, manager of brain injury programs for the Cridge Centre for the Family.

“So we give them a safe home, meals are provided for them, life skills are provided and the support and encouragement to move on to a more independent lifestyle.”

It’s similar to what the centre would like to see built for women.

“If we had a residential facility for women, I think what that would mean for us is that we could welcome women into our program and we would know we could have a continuum of care that suits their needs,” said Stretch.

Island Health says it plans to make announcement soon on supportive services for people living with brain injuries – including women.  

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