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2 WIN grants aid domestic violence victims, infants after NICU

Lincoln, Nebraska—Oct. 9, 2017—Two $85,000 grants from Women Investing in Nebraska (WIN) will boost efforts to help victims of domestic violence and help infants who spent time in a neonatal intensive care unit get needed medical assessment and treatment.

WIN announced its grants to the Brain Injury Alliance of Nebraska and to the University of Nebraska Medical Center Munroe-Meyer Institute at its 2017 grant awards celebration on Oct. 5 in Lincoln.

Gifts from 155 members of WIN funded the two grants, which were awarded evenly between a University of Nebraska project and a Nebraska non-profit project based on a proposal review process. This is the sixth year that WIN has awarded grants with a cumulative $862,650 awarded. WIN members live across Nebraska and in several states.

Carey Hamilton of Omaha chairs WIN and noted the two grants have in common strong collaborative efforts with existing service networks and an emphasis on serving people wherever they are in Nebraska.

“WIN seeks out projects that apply bold new ideas and approaches to important issues in our state. As we study grant proposals, we see many examples of amazing creativity, commitment, service and compassion,” Hamilton said.

Paula McClymont of Lincoln chairs the group’s grants committee and said they received more than 70 grant inquiries this year. The grants committee invited 15 to submit full proposals and then selected four finalists before the organization’s full membership voted on the two grant winners.

“The grants review is educational and emotion,” McClymont said. “We see Nebraskans stepping up to do so much in their communities and across the state. We are pleased to be able to make these grants in areas we believe will see a strong impact from these programs.”

Connecting domestic violence and brain injury

The grant made to the Brain Injury Alliance of Nebraska and its domestic violence project builds upon a pilot program in which people who are assisting victims were trained to screen for possible brain injuries, including concussion. Sixty percent of the 93 people screened in the pilot exhibited indicators of such injuries.

Peggy Reisher, executive director of the alliance, said recognizing such injuries is the first step to getting proper treatment for the victims, informing their care and enhancing their quality of life. First responders, attorneys, corrections officers and others are among those who can be trained to screen for indicators of concussion or brain injury, which could be mistaken for disorganization, belligerence, intoxication, fatigue or other conditions.

“This extremely high incidence rate provides strong support for the need to equip shelter staff and health care providers with the tools and traumatic brain injury facts so they can better serve and meet the needs of victims of domestic violence,” Reisher said.

The project is called Brain Injury and Domestic Violence: Making the Connection and Improving Care, and the people trained in the pilot program said the findings were eye-opening.

Reisher said there is little research on the incidence of brain injury related to domestic violence. To obtain in-depth screening information, the Nebraska group partners with Kate Higgins, Psy.D., a neuropsychologist at Sanford University of South Dakota Medical Center, who previously was a neuropsychology postdoctoral fellow at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Center for Brain, Biology and Behavior.

Other collaborators include the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services; the U.S. Center for Disease Control; Schmeeckle Research; Nebraska Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence; Friendship Home; Clinic with a Heart; Health 360 Integrated Care Clinic; and Voices of Hope.

Supporting infant development near home

The grant made to the Munroe-Meyer Institute at UNMC and its Statewide NICU Feeding and Swallowing Follow Up program is led by Amy Nordness, Ph.D., director of speech-language pathology and the Scottish Rite Assistant Professor.

Newborns and infants who spend time in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) are carefully observed but need to be monitored after dismissal to assure they are getting nutrients they need to develop and grow. Swallowing can be a problem for them—a disorder known as dysphagia—but a fiberoptic endoscopic evaluation involves travel to Omaha or Lincoln.

Nordness said the new portable equipment made possible with the grant funding is cost-effective, radiation-free and will enable the program to help more infants across the state.

“The earlier we support children with feeding and swallowing difficulties, the better their outcomes,” Nordness said. “After infants leave the NICU, their feeding and swallowing needs continue to change. It’s essential that infants and their families receive exceptional support and the safest assessments near their home community as needs arise in order to support them in a timely manner.”

Many infants who spent time in a NICU participate in Tracking Infant Progress Statewide clinics, and the program’s collaboration with those clinics will help assure families can be connected to additional assessments and services.  

By purchasing mobile equipment that could be housed in a Hastings clinic and training a network of speech pathologists across Nebraska to use it, more infants may be assessed and better treatment plans created for them. Strong feeding and swallowing skills are tied to physical development as well as skills like self-calming, communication and bonding with their families.

Also, the training aspect of this project builds in the potential for it to impact infants far beyond the grant year as well as establishing research collaborations to bring greater resources to at-risk infants in Nebraska.

WIN is a collective giving group operating in partnership with the University of Nebraska Foundation and the UNF Charitable Gift Fund to support women philanthropists through education, engagement and empowerment. Each year, members’ gifts are pooled and divided equally between a Nebraska nonprofit organization and a University of Nebraska program or organization.

To learn more about Women Investing in Nebraska visit

"Women want to do more than write a check to support a worthy cause. They want their gift to have impact and meaning."

-Nancy Keegan, Former chair of the University of Nebraska Foundation board of directors