Jodi House assists traumatic brain injury survivors during pandemic
Jodi House, a Santa Barbara nonprofit that empowers brain-injury survivors through community programs and case management services, has expanded its outreach with virtual classes.
Katie, a San Bernardino County resident, lost friendships after a series of concussions.
“I lost everybody because I looked and sounded okay — to a point,” she said in a Jodi House video testimony. “It was like, ‘What is wrong with you?’ ”
She struggled to find support in her county, so her speech therapist recommended Jodi House’s virtual classes offered during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“When I heard everybody talking a little bit about their journey, for the first time I’m with people I can relate to, and I didn’t have to explain anything,” she said. “I cried, I mostly just cried. I was just so happy to be connected with people who got it, who really understood.”
Jodi House, at 625 Chapala St., helps survivors find a community and reintegrate after a traumatic brain injury. When it moved classes online, people from nearby counties were able to join.
Some members were part of a support group in collaboration with Jodi House and St. Jude Brain Injury Network, based in Orange County.
Many programs are available in its online library for members to access on demand. Since its pandemic inception, nearly 1,000 visitors have accessed the program.
The virtual programs provide 140 direct service hours each week in classes like yoga, Members began taking virtual field trips, like watching the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s virtual tour together.
Jodi House’s classes focus on mindfulness meditation, communication, language, cognitive strengthening and peer support.
“What’s been so great about this portal that we’ve created is it has allowed people to customize and tailor services in a way that they couldn’t when they were just showing up Monday through Friday,” Lindsey Black, Jodi House’s executive director, told the News-Press.
She hopes to provide the digital content even after Jodi House reopens its doors. Currently the state is reviewing a grant proposal to fund the online resources.
Jodi House also sends hands-on resources for survivors to try at home, away from the computer.
“An important consideration for us is neuro fatigue and the fact that unlike the larger population, so many of our members cannot sit at a screen for two, three or four hours consistently all day,” she said.
In person, Jodi House members can participate in a variety of activities such as playing drums or learning to cook healthy meals. Even members’ caregivers have connected.
“What you see here on our social events and in our community gatherings is there is this network of family, friends and caregivers who really rally around their loved ones that show up at Jodi House — whether it’s to pick them up or drop them off — and have formed these support channels for one another since their realities looks so different after such a life-changing injury,” Ms. Black said.
She said family members are often the first ones to contact Jodi House. They call to find resources and get referrals as they navigate a loved one’s injury.
Jodi House has continued its advisory role, helping caregivers navigate COVID-19 precautions and assisting survivors applying for social security benefits.
For survivors, Jodi House becomes a partner during their journey.
“Really at the heart of the organization has always been to combat isolation,” Ms. Black said. “So for COVID to come and basically render all of our members unable or really cautioned against leaving their homes … it’s been hard.”
Sharing experiences have helped survivors overcome isolation, a feeling they had before lockdowns and health orders.
“One of our members said, they hope when COVID is over that everyone will remember their friends with brain injury because these are feelings that they live with on a regular basis,” Ms. Black said.
Jodi House isn’t a program to graduate from or physical rehabilitation. It’s a home base for people on a journey to acclimate after a brain injury.
“I really do look forward to the day that we can reopen our doors because I know there’s nothing that can fully replicate what it is for people to come and be together,” Ms. Black said.
“But for our members, I think so much of the isolation that they’ve faced prior to Jodi House has to do with feeling as if people don’t understand what they’re going through, and so the power of peer support has always been central to our program model . And it’s this idea that you can come here, whether it’s online or in person, and be with people who have that shared lived experience.”