Berne man wins phone therapy suit

Judge: Crime victims panel must pay man’s therapist for rare form of counseling

By RICK KARLIN, Capitol bureau
Click byline for more stories by writer.
First published: Saturday, December 9, 2006

A Berne man who sued the state for cutting off payments for his telephone therapy has won the right to keep getting the treatments reimbursed.
The New York State Crime Victims Compensation Board was “arbitrary and capricious,” in its decision earlier this year to stop payments to William Buse, a New York City therapist who provides counseling over the telephone to Peter Kahrmann, who moved to Berne four years ago.

“We just got the decision in the mail,” Kahrmann lawyer Michael Kaplen said. “He’s going to continue to get the therapy he needs.”

The case filed earlier this year challenged the board’s decision to stop funding the rare therapy. State Supreme Court Justice George B. Ceresia Jr. based his decision partly on the lack of hearings or other public input prior to the board’s decision.

“This is a victory for crime victims and I think it’s a victory for the Crime Victims Board too,” Kahrmann said. He said he hopes to meet with board members now that the case is resolved. “The Crime Victims Board is an honorable group of people, but they probably got some bad guidance.”

The board’s general counsel, John Watson, said it would have to review Ceresia’s decision before determining if it would change procedures at the agency.

Watson said the board gets about a half-dozen lawsuits each year similar to Kahrmann’s and there are currently three outstanding. Kahrmann sued under Article 78 of state law which allows people to go to court and fight decisions by government agencies.

Watson couldn’t immediately say how many people receive telephone therapy that is paid for by the board. Previous board officials have said it wasn’t more than a handful at most.

In 1984, Kahrmann was shot in the head during a mugging in New York City, where he lived at the time. After surgery to save his life, he spent a year cooped up in his apartment until Buse, a clinical social worker, helped him deal with the trauma.

Kahrmann became active in advocating for people with brain injuries and when he moved to Berne, continued with the occasional therapy sessions with Buse by phone.

Rick Karlin can be reached at 454-5758 or by e-mail at


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