Traumatic brain injury survivors have a new home

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The grand opening celebration of a new facility in Shoreline is bringing some much-needed help to traumatic brain injury survivors in Western Washington.

The non-profit Provail held a ribbon cutting for its new TBI assisted living home on Monday afternoon.  It's a state-of-the-art facility located on NE 175th Street, and the result of nearly six years of work on the part of Provail and several other stakeholders.

It's also one of only a handful of facilities in this area that specialize in meeting the needs of traumatic brain injury survivors. 

"That's really what our mission is, is to create a space where people decide for themselves what their life in the community is going to look like, and this is a place where they know they're going to have the support and the community behind them to help make that successful," said Provail CEO Michael Hatzenbeler.

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For the 12 TBI survivors who will call it home, the facility is a chance at independence.

"Most traumatic brain injuries happen from accidents, like a sports accident or a car accident or a bike accident," said Gretchen Engle, whose 26-year-old son will soon move into the home on NE 175th Street.

Engle's son's story is a bit different than most TBI survivors, because it began when her son overdosed on heroin.

"He was in a kind of coma state for eleven days, and we weren't sure if he was going to live. Then one day he woke up, and he was hungry," Engle recalls. "But he did have some loss of oxygen to his brain and so that's what caused his traumatic brain injury."

That was in January of 2016.

Nearly a year later, Avery Winslow has come a long way.  But he also has a long way still to go.

"When I first woke up I had to learn how to walk again, talk again, eat again," said Winslow.  "And I'm not very good at writing still, but I'm getting better."

Winslow's family believes Provail's 'Brainspace' facility is just what he needs to take the next step forward.

"This is perfect timing for him, to find a house like this," said Engle.  "Here he can interact with other people with brain injuries and learn from them, and people who know about TBI will be able to address the different needs he has."

Engle felt that sense of community was particularly important, because up to this point, Avery had been living in an adult family home.

That's a problem a lot of young adult TBI survivors find themselves dealing with.  They end up in nursing homes, without similar-age peers or specialized therapy for traumatic brain injuries.

"This is designed for a person to be as independent as they can be," said Engle. "Like Avery can get a job and live here, he can learn how to do his own laundry and all those acts of daily living. I feel really hopeful with him here."

The 12-bedroom facility will serve low-income adults who are traumatic brain injury survivors, including veterans.

With the current heroin epidemic facing this region, Engle worries there may be other families faced with traumatic brain injuries after a loved one's overdose.  She knows those families may also be struggling to find places to turn for help.

"Not everyone dies from an overdose, and I'm glad Avery didn't," she said.  "And yes, he has brain damage from it, but he has great potential.  He's so young. He has a really good chance of getting up to 95 percent or 100 percent recovery.  And now he's in a place where that can really happen."

According to Provail, the $3 million project was funded by the Washington State Department of Commerce Housing Trust Fund, the King County Housing and Community Development Program, the Federal Home Loan Bank of Des Moines Affordable Housing Program, and the Washington State Legislature.

Winslow hopes to move in by the end of December and says he's grateful to be there and has high hopes for the future.

"I want to get a job, someday soon, hopefully," he said.  "I want to be able to drive, and maybe even get a dog!"