Meet Toby Harris

June 2015

Toby HarrisToby Harris, Chief Executive Officer of Traverse Independence, sees hundreds of cases like Jeffrey’s each year, a number that’s only increasing.  

By age 15, Jeffrey had already overcome a lot. Born blind, he also sustained a serious brain injury in a sledding accident that left him with significant challenges and threatened his independence.  

At first, Jeffrey’s recovery seemed remarkable. He graduated from high school and then lived in his own apartment.  However, his brain injury made it difficult for him to make friends, keep a job and make good decisions.  His family began to receive phone calls about Jeffrey being disoriented, or picked up by police and taken to hospital. 

“Unfortunately, his brain injury had left him with poor insight and judgment,” explains Jeffrey’s sister.  “He would insist that he didn’t need help but eventually, he stopped taking care of himself.”

Jeffrey spent a couple of years in hospital and then another year in long-term care. There, he spent most of his days in bed, unstimulated and disengaged. It was when he was sent back to the hospital to manage his disruptive behavior that his life finally started to turn around.

Jeffrey was connected with Traverse Independence. Today, he lives on his own with support and has learned to care for himself. He makes meals, goes for walks, enjoys day programs and has made some friends. He is working with his care team so that one day, he can volunteer in the community.

“With the right programs and supports, our clients flourish,” says Toby.

For Jeffrey it was Traverse’s Transitional Living Program, designed to help residents learn to manage and plan their day-to-day living that helped him to flourish. From budgeting and meal planning, to shopping and using public transportation, the program starts with 24/7 access to an ABI specialized therapeutic environment and decreases to weekly  supports  as they  gain enough skills and independence to live on their own in the community with minimal support.

“This is the good news about the integration work that’s been happening in health care, specifically for patients with brain injuries,” explains Toby. “In the pre-LHIN days, our services were widely unknown. Collaboration between health service providers has created a system of care for patients and has also increased awareness of our services. We might be the end program of support for our clients but we are all now focusing on the entire journey right from acute care to rehab to community living. As a result, we’re helping more patients than ever before.”

Traverse Independence offers a host of services from day programs to home support visits to help residents in our community who have an acquired brain injury (ABI). 

“My brother is thriving because he is finally surrounded by professionals who understand his brain injury deficits and appreciate his many strengths,” says Jeffrey’s sister. “With their expertise and collaboration with outside agencies like the CNIB, the Traverse team is enabling him to learn to live independently again.”

“Our service has evolved as the quality of care and clinical oversight has increased,” says Toby. “We’re proud of our role in creating integrated, high quality services.  We’re now working to build a single point of access for all community brain injury services and to provide specialized support for patients who have a mental illness and a brain injury. There’s lots of work yet to be done.”