The Brain Injury Community Needs Your Support for the 2024 Legislative Session

People and family members living with brain injury smiling in front of the Olympia capitol building.

Write your representatives today!

Washington’s legislative session opens Monday, January 8, 2024. Representative Jessica Bateman will be introducing House Bill 2248 (Support for Individuals with Traumatic Brain Injury) that proposes important updates to an existing law that is meant to provide support to people living with permanent changes and disability due to brain injury.

We need as many people as possible to write their representatives to show support for House Bill 2248 to be supported and prioritized for a hearing in the 2024 Legislative Session.


Summary of Issues

This is a short and simple bill that asks for some minor, but significant, updates to the existing RCW 74.31 to address the following issues:

  • The lack of community representation and diversity on the TBI Council.
  • The lack of transparency and community access to TBI Council and Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) plan and progress for helping people living with permanent changes and disability due to brain injury.
  • The recent elimination of all funding for in-person support groups across the state.

Specifically, House Bill 2248 does the following:

  • TBI Council members
    • Requires that council members appointed by the Governor to the TBI Strategic Partnership Advisory Council not be state employees.
    • Requires council members to reflect the diversity of the state, including with regard to insurance coverage.
  • Council reports and meetings:
    • Requires the Council’s biennial report to include a summary of expenditures from/deposits to the TBI account.
    • Requires DSHS to provide public notice of each Council meeting and post certain meeting materials on their website.
    • Requires that Council meetings be open to the public and include an opportunity for public comment.
  • Support groups:
    • Requires DSHS to provide funding to programs that facilitate in-person or virtual support groups.
    • At a minimum, requires DSHS to provide funding to support at least one in-person support group in each ACH region.
    • Requires that the criteria used by DSHS to select funding recipients reflect the diversity of individuals with TBIs.
    • Requires support groups that receive funding to meet quarterly and to be free of charge.
    • Requires DSHS to approve at least one facilitation training curriculum.

The Background (in bullets)

  • RCW 74.31 (also known as the “Tommy Manning Act”) was introduced in 2007 when the legislature recognized “that current programs and services are not funded or designed to address the diverse needs of this population. It is the intent of the legislature to develop a comprehensive plan to help individuals with traumatic brain injuries meet their needs.”
  • Subsection RCW 74.31.060 specifies that funds will be raised by charging a fee on every moving violation. Today that fee is $5. For comparison, the state of Colorado charges $20.
  • The funds go into a budget managed by the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS). DSHS is advised on how to utilize the funds by a TBI Council.
  • The TBI Council is designed to representative of the diversity in the community. It is comprised of 14 “community seats” (appointed by the governor) and 11 “agency seats” attended by representatives from designated state agencies responsible for coordination of services to implement solutions.
  • Over the last decade “community seats” on the TBI Council have been 20-40% vacant, with 60% of the represented seats occupied by people working for the state, making it so that the TBI Council is no longer reflective of the community it intends to represent.
  • Further, since 2018, DSHS has systematically eliminated funding from long-standing, and successful, support programs in the community. In 2023 it redirected all funds to an online-only platform through a contract with a single vendor. This means all of the established support programs that have been providing lifetime services and in-person support for the last two decades are now scrambling to figure out how to continue providing these services to the people with permanent life changes and disability due to brain injury.

The Details

Council Representation and Diversity

Without any lived experience of brain injury it impossible to know what might be helpful to the people and their families living with permanent changes and disability due to brain injury.

For this reason, when RCW 74.31 was written back in 2007, the TBI Council was explicitly designed by subsection 74.31.020 to to be a mechanism for the community to have a voice in how the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) would implement solutions to support them.

The council consists of 14 “community seats” appointed by the Governor and another 11 “state agency” seats filled by representatives from state agencies necessary to coordinate implementation of comprehensive solutions.

As of today (January 2024) 20% of council seats are unrepresented. In August of 2023 this was nearly 30% seats unrepresented, and in the years between 2018 – 2023 there were 40% unrepresented seats. Bottom line: there has been a history going back at least 6 years that shows a lack of community representation on the TBI Council. Further, as of January 2024, nearly 60% of the represented “community” seats were occupied by state employees or people with state contracts that posed a conflict of interest. Again, demonstrating lack of diverse community representation.

This is concurrent with elimination of long-standing council representation from Brain Injury Alliance of WA which is one of the major state chapters of the National Brain Injury Alliance, and one of the largest support organizations in Washington explicitly dedicated to serving the brain injury community.

The bill calls for and update to RCW 74.31 that would specify that council members appointed by the Governor cannot be state employees or have other conflict of interest due to contracts held with the state.

Community Access and Transparency

When RCW 74.31 was written back in 2007 there used to be well written reports to the legislator and TBI Council meeting minutes and materials were posted online for public access.

Now there is a lack of transparency into the work of the TBI Council and DSHS, with public information being inaccessible, delays in public disclosure requests, meeting minutes that provide no substantial information, and a recent comprehensive plan that is essentially useless to constituents and legislators alike who want to truly understand how state funding has achieved its goals in supporting the brain injury community.

This bill calls for updates to RCW 74.31 that would require DSHS to:

  • Provide transparency about budget and expenditures in reports to legislators by including specific information.
  • Publish relevant materials and information before and after meetings to ensure public access to attending meetings and meeting information.
  • Provide the ability for public comment during TBI Council meetings.
  • Provide the ability for in-person attendance at meetings for those that don’t have internet access or inability to attend online.

Funding & Availability of In Person Support

If you talk to anyone who has lived with brain injury in Washington over the past 20 years they will tell you it was one of the well-established support programs offered in the community that was the most valuable and supportive resource to them.

Since 2018, all funds going to long-standing and successful support programs in the community were systematically eliminated and ultimately redirected in 2023 to an online-only support platform through a contract with a single vendor. The timing of this forced all existing programs to navigate, support, and fund their own transition online offerings during COVID lockdowns, when the state could have easily used those funds to offer support. This was an unneeded change that has resulted in confusion, along with accessibility and quality issues, as the facilitation, content and format are missing is key components of what makes a program supportive to members of the community.

The current language of subsection RCW 74.31.050 states that funding “should be directed to programs that facilitate support groups to individuals with traumatic brain injuries and their families.” The current online platform, that was meant to replace 20 years of successful community-driven programs across the state, ignore the true needs of those individuals and families.

In the first step to address these issues, the bill requests an update the language of the RCW to say that the state provide funding support at least one in-person support programs in every region of the state (as defined by the Accountable Communities of Health) with a preference for facilitators with lived experience of brain injury. This would return funding to in-person support groups, ensure that people are receiving the support they need, and expand accessibility across the state.


This bill proposes simple and straightforward requirements for DSHS and the TBI Council that will mitigate unnecessary challenge to community leaders, as well as people and families already marginalized and overly challenged in their day-to-day lives.

The hearing and passing of this bill is a vital step in restoring relationships, and starting a conversation between the community, legislature, and state agencies to achieve the goals we believe we all want: adequate, accessible, ubiquitous, and continuous lifetime support for the people in our community living with permanent changes and disability related to brain injury.

Please champion this bill today!