National Disability Insurance Scheme “Community of Practice” in Brain Injury

Commencing in early 2017, the primary purposes of the Brain Injury Australia-facilitated national “community of practice” in brain injury are to optimise both needs ascertainment and plan fidelity for National Disability Insurance (NDIS) participants with a brain injury. The community met at the National Disability Insurance Agency’s Parramatta office on 7th September. Along with the presentation of de-identified participant case studies and reviews of plans, each meeting includes a learning and development component for Local Area Coordinators (LACs) and Agency Planners. Dr. Jeffrey Chan, the Senior Practitioner in Behaviour Support at the NDIS Quality and Safeguards Commission, and clinical psychologist Paul Gertler presented on best practice management of “challenging behaviours”.

Around half of people manifest “challenging behaviours” following a severe brain injury, spanning: chronic irritability; social, sometimes sexual, disinhibition; and verbal, sometimes physical, aggression. These behaviours can worsen with time. Of the multiple disabilities that comprise ABI, “challenging behaviours” are consistently rated the most disabling, by both consumers and significant others.

Dr. Chan has worked in human services for nearly 30 years in government, non-government and statutory roles. He was the inaugural Victorian Senior Practitioner and Queensland’s Chief Practitioner and Director of Forensic Disability. He was a Finalist in the Australian Human Rights Award 2010 for Community (Individual) category for his work on protecting the rights of people with disabilities subjected to restrictive interventions.

Paul Gertler has a Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Psychology from The University of Newcastle and a Masters in Clinical Psychology from The University of Sydney. After graduating in 1999, Paul spent two years in the UK working for Brain Injury Rehabilitation Trust. Paul has worked for the both Liverpool Hospital’s and the Royal Rehab’s brain injury community teams. Paul is active in research and is currently completing a PhD into treating depression following TBI with the John Walsh Centre for Rehabilitation Research at The University of Sydney. Paul has guest-lectured in the clinical psychology masters programs at Western Sydney University and UNSW. He is an accredited assessor for eligibility disputes for Lifetime Care and Support NSW. He was a founding member of the Australian Clinical Psychology Association (ACPA) and has been an active member on the organising committee of national conferences for the Australasian Society for the Study of Brain Impairment (ASSBI) and the Australian Association for Cognitive and Behaviour Therapy (AACBT). Paul has been in private practice since 2003.

The community’s next meeting, on 6th December, will joined by Barry Willer, Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University at Buffalo in New York State, who has worked in the field of traumatic brain injury (TBI) for over 30 years, and is the principle author of the Community Integration Questionnaire and the “Whatever it Takes” model. Professor Willer was the first director of the Rehabilitation Research and Training Center on Community Integration and was a leader in the development of the Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems database. He was the 2012 recipient of the Research Award from the North American Brain Injury Society.

Alongside work in severe TBI, Professor Willer’s recent research interest has focussed on “mild” TBI and post-concussion syndrome. Professor Willer wrote the first return-to-play guidelines following concussion for both the International Ice Hockey Federation and the International Olympic Federation – the latter introduced at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. He leads a group of researchers who have conducted the first and only published evaluation of the return-to-play guidelines in the Consensus Statement of the last conference of the International Concussion in Sport Group, held in Zurich in 2012.