Issue 7: Persons with Organic Brain Disorders

Goal: Ensure that people with organic brain disorders receive appropriate services and supports.


Organic Brain Syndrome (OBS) occurs in people who have survived traumatic brain injury and other accidents, progressive, degenerative and other diseases, and congenital anomalies that cause brain damage. People with OBS may experience life altering behavioral and personality changes, anger, impulsive responses, memory lapses, and depression. They also may have mental illness. They are often unable to secure and maintain employment, a home, and a family. Their problems are often preceded by and/or exacerbated by drug and alcohol abuse.

The University of Washington estimates that between 5,000--6,000 Alaskans have some form of organic brain disorder. Depending on the cause of the brain damage, a person may be served by several different service systems. When the problem started before the age of 18, services may be under the pervue of the Governor's Council on Disabilities and Special Education. For adults, care and services are often inaccessible or inconsistent, with many adults unable to find any service providers. Many community mental health care providers will assist only if the person with Organic Brain Syndrome also has another major mental illness. Mental health care is available to mentally ill offenders in Department of Corrections custody who have OBS. On release, however, it is difficult to find community placements for these individuals.


219. The beneficiary boards will urge the Alaska Mental Health Authority to convene a "summit" to reconfigure and rationalize the State's services for people with Organic Brain Syndrome.

220. Advocate that the responsible agency for services to people with Organic Brain Syndrome be clearly defined.

221. Establish a multi-agency steering group to address pooled funding, community based, individual centered services and wider use of screening tools for client identification.

222. Support training of professionals specializing in treating and educating persons with brain disorders in scientifically based knowledge about these disorders.

223. Develop a guide for Organic Brain Syndrome services that identifies funding sources for treatment, rehabilitation, and care.
Responsible party (actions 1-5): Alaska Mental Health Board, Governor's Council on Disabilities and Special Education, Alaska Commission on Aging, Governor's Advisory Board on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority