Office Doors: A Day With Carrie Collins-Fadell

CEO of Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona


I love to spend time in the morning in my backyard. One of the relaxing activities I do is spend time on my cactus collection. I have 90 varieties of cacti and none of them was purchased. They were all grown from friends’ clippings in garden clubs. I enjoy garden clubs because it’s a group of people who come together for a mono focus. 

If I’m not drinking coffee among the cacti in the morning, I take a 3-mile walk with my rescue Chihuahuas, Winston Churchill, Coco Chanel and Joey. It allows me to get in the right mindset for the day.


My workday begins with what I call East Coast alphabet soup as I participate in many national brain injury networks. I’m a board member for the United States Brain Injury Alliance and I facilitate the group’s National Collaborative COVID-19 Workgroup, where we work to identify, support and deploy emerging best practices in the community around brain injury programs and survivor service delivery. I also chair the United States Brain Injury Alliance Public Policy Committee working directly with the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force. Brain injury is common but misunderstood and rarely thought about compared to other diseases.

While we were involved in alliances before COVID, new things are now coming into play, such as how neurological conditions from COVID are going to be classified as a disability, billed and tracked. Brain injury is handled inconsistently by state with varying resources. We’re seeing a lot of research, systems and best-practice sharing that we’re working on as individuals in the field to address gaps in the system.


I have a small and agile 10-member team that works remotely throughout the state. Back in person for us means we are at hospitals, on military bases, addiction centers or on college campuses since we are co-located in places where people have a brain injury. We choose strategic partnerships and make sure we’re doing data-driven things so we can sustain the impact of our work. We’re a trusted partner in the medical community and their companion to excellent medical care.

Over the last few years, we’ve made a concerted effort to get to places where brain injury isn’t known. The undiagnosed, untreated brain injury from abuse, car accidents and falls can cause people to be destabilized in systems that aren’t built to serve survivors. This keeps me up at night.


I spend time in the community with other human service organizations discussing trainings and potential partnerships where we can play a role in helping them understand brain injury. For example, we work with veterans who are released from prison and don’t have anywhere to live to understand brain injury and brain health as part of their re-entry into the community. Brain injury is found in 80 percent of the incarcerated population, and one in three people with a traumatic brain injury will likely be involved
in the justice system within five years.


I ensure the team has what they need as they execute support groups and education programs for survivors and neuro-professionals. We are facilitating a COVID response series so professionals who have made strides in COVID or long-hauler treatments can come together and share because what occurred in the system was siloed during the pandemic. We’re also a conduit in helping professionals share and inform others on brain injury protocols. 

I work with our various committees and board, such as our 36-person Brain Health Advisory Council, which informs our work and sets the direction and tone of our programming. This piece of my day is vital because I learn from different stakeholders with lived experience on what they need to be successful years after brain injury. Something that is misunderstood, and the piece people don’t see, is the entire new journey that happens after you’ve walked out of the hospital. We’re there with free services every step of the way by providing help with work, relationships or financial management.

I also connect with my staff to see how they are emotionally, because I’m concerned about their self-care. They are in the middle of other people’s trauma and with them during some of the worst times of their lives, when things have been upended because of brain injury.


I check in on our peer support team to see how their cases went throughout the day. We have peer support for veterans, people with substance-use disorder and interpersonal violence. We manage one of the only contracts in the nation looking at addiction in the disability community, specifically how brain injury and addiction play together. If you have a head injury, you are 70 percent more likely to be discharged with an opioid prescription. So, we give survivors a “Living Well After Head Injury Hospital Discharge Kit” that includes several items, such as drug disposal bags, journal, medication lockbox and gun lock since the risk of suicide increases after a brain injury. We are working upstream in the opioid crisis by talking to people and giving them tools to make informed decisions when they are discharged from the hospital.
People have worked for years in their recovery from addiction. They should be able to heal from injury without resetting all of their work on the addiction front.


I spend the early evening catching up with family and friends and enjoying some downtime. I also love to swim and bike. About 7 p.m., I read journal articles, do homework and prepare my dissertation research as I work toward my Ph.D. at Grand Canyon University. My doctoral dissertation focuses on how brain health information could play a role in reducing recidivism and improving the overall quality of life for a group of women being released from Perryville Prison.

I admit I’m the worst at sending emails to my staff at 11 p.m. or later because it helps me relax knowing things are off my to-do list. Because we are small and busy, decisions must be made quickly, and I don’t want anyone waiting for my input to move ahead with their day.

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About Julie Coleman

Julie Coleman is a contributing writer for Frontdoors Media. She is Principal of Julie Coleman Consulting, providing strategic philanthropy consulting services for individuals, families, businesses, foundations and nonprofit organizations.

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