Farewell to BHN's Carson Center for Traumatic Brain Injury (CTBIS) Services

This month BHN is sad to say farewell to one of its treasured services. The BHN/Carson Center for Traumatic Brain Injury Services (CTBIS) has been serving individuals since 1987 and was the first state-funded program of its kind in the country. Over the years, we have provided services to over 500 individuals living with mild to severe brain injuries in Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin, and Berkshire counties.

Each consumer has worked hard to increase their empowerment, independence, and productivity through functional living, cognitive, and compensation skills training and case management supports while building upon their existing strengths and abilities. Along the way, CTBIS initiated the Social Recreation Program in response to the growing demand for organized leisure opportunities for adults with head injuries. Here, individuals build their social networks within their communities through structured group recreational activities.     

We’ve enjoyed profound satisfaction when individuals we have assisted obtained/maintained housing and meaningful paid or volunteer work, attained/regained sobriety, consistently scheduled and attended appointments, utilized transportation services, and experienced empathy and understanding when they learned how to share their story. One of our insightful consumers offers this wisdom, applicable to so many we serve; “I can still have my dreams but I need to adapt to the way I reach them.” 

We are sorry to see this service go, but we are very grateful for having the opportunity to walk this healing journey with so many amazingly resilient individuals. And we are ever so grateful to the devoted team who have cared for them over the years with such skill and compassion.

Read on to learn about Frankie, a professional artist, and CTBIS participant.

Those We Serve: Frankie's Story

Frankie was raised in Worcester, MA and later relocated to Springfield, MA as an adult. He was a busy father working a full-time job as a clinical leader for a dental practice and spent his days traveling state to state to provide training on patient management. His life changed forever in June 2015 when he was involved in a hit-and-run accident while riding his bike and experienced a traumatic brain injury. "When I came out of a coma, I was disoriented and disabled. I had no idea what I was doing,” said Frankie. “I had unrealistic goals of going back to my normal life.” After a divorce and other setbacks unrelated to the injury, Frankie was referred to BHN’s Carson Center for Traumatic Brain Injury Services (CTBIS) in 2016 from the state head injury program.

As an active participant in both in-home support coordination services as well as psycho-educational groups, Frankie’s life has improved immensely with help of his support coordinator, Deja. “There is no way I would be where I am today without the help of the program. The whole experience and services provided gave me a new perspective on life,” said Frankie.

Before his injury, Frankie enjoyed drawing but never dreamed that he could turn his art into a career. “I was mechanical in my thinking, it was just go to work and go home every day.” Deja has worked tirelessly to help Frankie reach and exceed his goal of becoming a working freelance artist. She helped connect him with Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC), with the organization of a business plan, and by providing assistance applying for grants and making connections in the community to further his career.

Frankie Painting
Frankie, Self Portrait - Mixed Media

“When I first started working with Frankie, he was all over the place, explained Deja. “He struggled to take care of himself and even to eat, due to losing his sense of taste. He was overcommitting himself and needed help with time management and his business plan. Dealing with such a life-changing event causes many people to shut down. It’s been inspiring to see Frankie gain control of his life as a father and artist, building so many connections with community members through his art.”

As a professional artist, Frankies main creative mediums are graphite, pastels, and acrylic. As a Traumatic Brain Injury Survivor, Frankie uses art as a therapeutic tool to help cope with PTSD and to motivate other people with disabilities. Through his artwork, he explores the everyday struggles and successes of multicultural communities.

Frankie has been a part of several public artworks and community projects in Springfield, including Fresh Paint Springfield, the “Preacher Man” mural on State Street, and the Black Lives Matter mural that has become a statement in the city. His work has been exhibited in gallery shows all over Massachusetts. Frankie has also shown his work on Channel 22’s Mass Appeal, and helped with fundraising money for the Hurricane Maria Relief Fund. He recently received a grant from the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MOCA) and was approved for assistive technology to help him keep track of his art business.

Deja is now working with Frankie on his transition out of the CTBIS program when it closes at the end of June. “This program has become so personal to me, said Frankie. “I don’t feel like I’m just a number at the Carson Center, they’ve treated me so well and it is going to be an adjustment.” Frankie will stay connected to the state head injury program and Deja plans to continue to support him through his art shows.