Health officials in Thunder Bay say better support for people with head injuries will free up much-needed hospital beds — and they’re putting up money to help make it happen.

The Northwest Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) said Thursday it will fund a local organization, Brain Injury Services of Northern Ontario to help move clients out of hospital.

The $250,000 will pay for two people to move into assisted living, where they will get support, rehabilitation and recreation.

The organization’s executive director, Alice Bellavance, said the funding is very much needed for those who struggle with a brain injury.

"They know how they used to be able to do all this stuff and now they can't," she said.

"How do you grieve those losses? And how do you capitalize on the things that you still can do and do really well?"


Laura Kokocinski, the head of the North West LHIN, said moving two people with brain injuries opens up bed space for about 130 acute-care patients over the course of a year. (Nicole Ireland/CBC)

Improving their quality of life is the goal, said Laura Kokocinski, the CEO of the LHIN.

"For people with brain injury ... often they will remain in the hospital for a very long period of time because the alternatives for them to move out into the community are limited," she said.

Their care will take up hospital beds that are then unavailable to acute-care patients for months, even years.

Kokocinski said moving just those two people with brain injuries opens up bed space for about 130 acute-care patients over the course of a year.

"[Patients with brain injury require a] level of care... so significant that they can't move home with family or move home to their home community," Bellavance said.

"Because their home community may not have the resources required to support them.  So they stay in a hospital bed."


Tuija Puiras with the North West Community Care Access Centre says it’s a good thing to be able to make health care decisions from home. (Nicole Ireland/CBC)

The CEO of the North West Community Care Access Centre also announced on Thursday other ways it will spend close to four million dollars alloted to it by the province this spring.

Tuija Puiras said the majority of the money will beef up home care, including more personal support workers. A program that helps send chronically ill patients home from the hospital earlier will also see increased funding.

"Let's go home and then we decide what we need to do and [weigh]

the expectations," she said.

"Are you going to be able to stay at home or is it supportive housing, if that’s available? Or is it long term care? But we can plan that at home, when people are less stressed."

Provincial funding will also go to tele-homecare, assisted living programs for seniors, people with disabilities, and addiction treatment.