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The Epilepsy Foundation of Florida Receives Grant to Conduct Outreach to Veterans in Rural Parts of Florida

The Epilepsy Foundation of Florida (EFOF) was selected by the Epilepsy Foundation of America as one of a handful of Epilepsy Foundation affiliates across the nation to receive a $10,000 grant to reach out to veterans, their families and professional health care providers in rural areas of Florida to educate them about the correlation between Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and epilepsy and where they can turn for assistance.

A study conducted by the Rand Corporation found that 20% of US military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan reported possible TBI. The long-term effects of such head injuries are becoming a significant concern among veterans’ advocates and medical experts across the US who recognize our troops with TBI face an increased risk of developing epilepsy. Because many of our returning troops live in rural communities, a top priority for the Veterans Health Administration is providing adequate healthcare and needed information to veterans living in rural areas. According to Karen Basha Egozi, chief executive officer of EFOF “Florida has one of the highest populations of veterans per capita in the US and with almost half of Florida’s counties classified as rural, we have to ensure all necessary services and information reaches every corner of our state where our veterans and their families live”.

 

Florida State Representative Jose Felix Diaz, the Community and Military Affairs Subcommittee Vice-Chair, noted the importance of this effort “Congratulations to Karen and her EFOF team on their grant award. I’m proud of the work EFOF has done over the past 40 years to help people overcome the challenges of living with epilepsy and I am especially proud to see them support Florida’s veterans and their families; our veterans have done so much for all of us, the least we can do is meet their needs when they come back home. With traumatic brain injury being a leading cause of acquired epilepsy, knowledge of the condition, understanding what resources are available and knowing who to talk to for assistance all translate into real power.”

Deanna Kirtman, EFOF’s Director of Advocacy and Education, echoed the sentiment “As Representative Diaz noted, knowledge is power – there are over 20 different types of seizures and if you don’t know what to look for, you may not even realize you or someone you love is having a seizure or what to do in that instance. “ She also noted how fortunate the state of Florida is in terms of expertise and resources, “Our state has a great foundation from which to conduct the outreach and education to meet the needs of the veteran community; in addition to EFOF, FL has three US Department of Veterans Affairs Epilepsy Centers of Excellence – one each in Miami, Gainesville and Tampa. We are in strong position to make so many Floridians seizure smart.”