A Picture of Recovery: TBI Waiver Gives Elliott Philips Hope for Future

Elliot Philips works out

TBI Waiver participant Elliott Phillips works out as part of his recovery journey.

A traumatic brain injury (TBI) sustained after he was thrown from a truck bed in 2014 changed Elliot Phillips’ life and filled it with struggles. Now, since enrolling in the NC TBI Waiver operated by Alliance Health in April 2020, Elliot has been on a journey toward healing with hope for the future.

“It has made my life better in so many ways it’s hard to count,” Elliot said.

Elliot’s accident caused multiple injuries in addition to the TBI, including right hemiparesis, dysphagia and communication deficits. Elliot’s injuries caused decreased balance, endurance and pain, cognitive deficits, and severe depression

He received very little rehabilitation after the accident because, without the TBI Waiver, Medicaid has strict limits and eligibility requirements. As a result, Elliott lived a mostly immobile life for 6 years.

Before his TBI, Elliot felt that life was good. He enjoyed exercising and hanging out with friends and did not struggle with mental health. After his accident, Elliot turned to substances to deal with his mental health, which led him down a path with very little quality of life. Elliot had lived in the Oxford House, but continued to struggle with polysubstance abuse, mental health issues, and pain from his injury.

When Elliot began on the TBI Waiver he was living with his father, who also struggles with substance abuse, and the dynamic made it very difficult for Elliot to recover. Elliot continued to struggle with substance abuse but made consistent progress.

Before he went “live” on the waiver, Elliot had a hospital stay for mental health/suicide attempt, but he eagerly began services after discharge.
He received Community Support Team (CST) services at Southlight when he began on the waiver, and continues to work with a peer support specialist. His cognitive deficits have improved due to specialized consultative services, life skills training and community networking services.

TBI care coordination was able to find a pain clinic that could treat his pain and support his recovery. Elliot’s work with specialized consultative services (occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech-language pathologist therapy) has increased his independence from not being able to stand in the shower to walking, going to the gym, stretching, going out in the community and more. Hanger, a provider of orthotics and prosthetics, assisted with splints for Elliott’s right foot drop and right-hand contracture. These services plus a TENS unit funded by the waiver have greatly reduced Elliot’s pain.

Elliot has had two additional hospital stays for mental health and suicide attempts, however, these were always triggered by his living situation or something TBI care coordination with staff could pinpoint. He then became open to changing his living situation to an unlicensed alternative family living home, funded by residential supports on the waiver. He was also motivated to go to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), and he now attends meetings five days a week.

During his recovery, Elliot has developed a stronger relationship with his mother and a healthier relationship with his father. His specialized consultative staff has also introduced him to a coffee club where he can relate to others.

Elliot recently received his 90-day chip in AA and has also abstained from heroin for almost a year. In addition to gaining more independence, he has developed the skills to maintain boundaries and effective communication with his family. The TBI Waiver has given him hope that he can work toward living independently.

Despite mild health concerns through this journey, Elliot has owned his healthcare, making his own appointments, setting up transportation, and making sure all needs are addressed. Because of his mild cognitive deficits, this progress has come slowly, but each time Elliot has had a challenge he jumps right back into services. He has learned not to see himself as a failure, but notice his progress over perfection.

“Elliot is truly a picture of recovery of TBI,” said Alliance TBI Care Coordinator Kate Hughes. “He truly understands the endurance, persistence, and commitment of TBI and substance abuse/mental health recovery.”