MossRehab Institute for Brain Health Team (shown left to right): Carlo Aragoncillo, Outreach Director; Danielle Scarpitti, Nurse Navigator; Yevgeniya Sergeyenko, MD, Clinical Director; Kate O'Rourke, Operations Director; Janine Brodovsky, PT; Katie Costello, Speech Therapist; Christine McShea, Intake Coordinator.
Dangerous situations faced by military personnel and first responders can place them at higher risk for injury. Nearly one of every three veterans are affected by traumatic brain injuries (TBIs),and may have co-occurring Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or other behavioral health issues. Police, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) often experience symptoms associated with TBI as well as depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress in the aftermath of life-threatening events. These invisible wounds can impact their family and other relationships, their ability to work, and their outlook on life.
The MossRehab Institute for Brain Health (MRIBH) launched in November 2022 at the MossRehab Elkins Park location and offers comprehensive and specialized care for veterans and first responders who have mild to moderate traumatic brain injury or mTBI (also known as concussions). Treatment is also offered for those with PTSD and many symptoms of TBI and PTSD overlap.
The program is made possible through a five-year, $12.5 million grant from the Avalon Action Alliance. MRIBH also received the proceeds from the 2022 Harvest Ball in the amount of $500,000.
A traumatic brain injury affects how the brain works and can be caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head or from a penetrating injury such as from a gunshot to the head. When this happens, the head and brain move quickly back and forth causing the brain to bounce around in the skull and may result in chemical changes in the brain or stretching and damaging brain cells. These changes in the brain may affect how a person thinks, learns, feels, acts, or sleeps. Although TBIs or concussions are considered “mild,” they can cause headache, confusion, difficulty concentrating, mood changes, dizziness, blurred vision, and ringing in the ears, among other symptoms. Most mTBI symptoms resolve within six months, but can persist for years. If a person has sustained any kind of trauma to the head, they should be checked by a healthcare provider.
“MossRehab offers specialized services to meet the needs of service members’ specific functional issues and improve their quality of life,” explains Alberto Esquenazi, MD, the John Otto Haas Chair of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation and Chief Medical Officer at MossRehab, who also serves as Senior Vice President for Rehabilitation and Post-Acute Care, Jefferson Health.
MRIBH is backed by the long-term experience and established practices of MossRehab traumatic brain injury (TBI) rehabilitation program and the transformative research of the Moss Rehabilitation Research Institute. MossRehab is one of only 16 federally funded Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems of Care in the U.S., making it a center of excellence in the research and clinical care of TBI.
MRIBH provides services in two phases: evaluation and intervention.
During an evaluation, individuals interested in receiving care are assessed through tests and interviews for three days to determine if their main concern is within the scope of the MRIBH. A team of dedicated veteran coordinators, therapists, social workers, counselors, physician staff and program director, work to determine a candidate’s eligibility.
“The initial evaluation helps determine an individual’s issues,” says Dr. Esquenazi. “We may interview ten people during an initial assessment and bring three to six people into the program with similar profiles to work as a group.”
During the intervention phase, those accepted into the program are offered personalized treatment as part of a three-week Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP). Interventions might be cognitive, physical, emotional and/or psychosocial. Family members attend at the end of the program so that they can learn how to provide support at home.
Based on patient needs, team clinicians may include a board certified physician who is a rehabilitation specialist in traumatic brain injury and experienced with the consequences of concussion; a psychologist and a neuropsychologist who provide emotional and mental health support; behavioral health therapist; traditional and integrative therapists such as physical, occupational, speech, art, equine, horticultural, yoga, etc. Administrative staff direct programs and coordinate travel for individuals while clinical staff monitors their health throughout the program.
“The level of intervention from our staff depends on the individual’s specific issues,” says Dr. Esquenazi. “We may directly treat the complaint but most importantly, address the root causes of it.”
“Teams periodically meet during the intervention period to discuss best approaches to treatments, results, and the need for therapy adjustments,” says Dr. Esquenazi.
MRIBH began initial patient assessments at MossRehab Elkins Park in October 2022. At the end of June, the program will move to a dedicated facility at The Station in Willow Grove, where patients will receive treatment.
Services are free to individuals since the program covers all insurance co-pays and the cost of logistics and meals.
Meet the Team
Yevgeniya Sergeyenko, MD
Board Certified Physician in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation
Janine Brodovsky, MSPT, DPT
Katie Costello, CCC-SLP
Danielle Scarpitti, RN, MSN, CRRN
Christina Zebrowski, PsyD
Allison Hendrix (Starts July 1, 2023) and Bayley, Therapy Dog
For more information about The MossRehab Institute for Brain Health, contact Carlo Aragoncillo, Outreach Director, at 215-802-5642 or Carlo.Aragonicillo@jefferson.edu.