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Concussion support group to end

Lack of funding cited

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A local support group that blazed the trail for concussion patients doesn't have future funding secured, which looks like the end of a program that gave new hope to sufferers.

The support group started in 2014 with occupational therapist Patricia Stoop, who had suffered two concussions within one year. And although the funding was secured through Vancouver Coastal Health and directed through Sea to Sky Community Services, additional funds are not on the horizon.

"We're in a position now where we don't really know what's next," said Stoop. The final program runs for four weeks in March.

"In the last few groups (participants) wanted to keep going, but we just don't have the resources to do that."

Stoop said she hasn't heard of groups like this one, where a mix of education and support was used to tap into recovery tools such as goal setting, meditation, yoga, and something similar to a calorie count, but where energy is monitored and apportioned according to activities.

"There's only so many things you can do before your brain gets overwhelmed," said Stoop.

"There's so many other directions we could go... We had lots of requests for caregivers, for children, youth and adolescents." The group was for adults who had suffered concussion symptoms for six months.

During a Concussion and Brain Injury Awareness presentation for parents and teachers held at Myrtle Philip Community School in January, Whistler physiotherapist Allison McLean said she was shocked by the standing-room only crowd.

"When I asked how many people had had concussions, the room lit up," McLean said. "Everybody put their hand up."

McLean said Whistler is anecdotally known as the concussion capital of B.C., and the crowd at the presentation confirmed for her that sufferers don't necessarily have the information they need.

"People are left on their own," she said, adding that support is critical. "It lets them know they're not going crazy. It gives these people a normal process."

Stoop said she is not aware of another support group like this in B.C., or in Canada. She had one participant drive from Aldergrove to take part in the group, and had an inquiry from someone in P.E.I.

Jana Kapp, a physiotherapist who started out as a participant in the group after several concussions, went on to co-facilitate with Stoop.

"I knew that I would be better, and wanted to be able to help others," she said.

Local physiotherapist and Back in Action co-owner Mike Conway said concussions are a growing health concern. Previous treatments that urged patients to "rest and wait it out — people didn't have hope," he said. "We have to show people this is slowly changing," and added he'd like to see the provincial government fund this program.

Stoop said that as more becomes known about concussions, support groups are like a lifeline.

"Participants use the knowledge to become more independent and manage themselves better so they don't need us any more," she said. "I would like to see the education groups continue."

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