In a wide ranging conversation marked by mutual respect and openness, representatives of the Kahrmann Consumer Advocacy Coalition met with Mark Kissinger, deputy commissioner for the New York State Department of Health, and members of his staff.
As founder of the KCAC, and one who will never blink when it comes to my support for the equal rights of all people, in this case, people with brain injuries and their families, today’s meeting very much appeared to be the beginning of what I suspect both sides hope will be an ongoing healthy dialogue.
The DOH said a newspaper article reporting that a hold had been put on the transfer of brain injury survivors consumers to licensed home care agencies was mistaken. While Kissinger and his staff could not guarantee no consumers would wind up in nursing homes as a result of the transfer of services, they assured us they were working on a daily basis with providers, focusing on each individual consumer, to make sure consumers are not going without the home and community support services they deserve. Moreover, the DOH said it is strongly discouraging nursing home admissions.
As for the timing of the late-December 2009 directive to providers requiring they transfer home community staff services to licensed home health care agencies in 30 days, Kissinger and his staff said waiver providers were told in 2006 that all agencies providing home and community services were required to be licensed home care agencies and, in 2007, were notified of this requirement in writing. According the DOH, providers were directed to be in compliance by the end of September, 2009, had that deadline extended to the end of December 2009, and then had that deadline extended another month.
A number of other possibilities were discussed, including, but not limited to:
- Quarterly meetings between the KCAC and the DOH.
- Quarterly meetings between the KCAC, the DOH and an alliance traumatic brain injury waiver health care providers.
- Increase reimbursement rates for providers
- The establishment of reimbursement for staff training relevant to the population being served.
- Including KCAC members as unpaid participants on DOH survey teams.
- KCAC meeting consumers across the state in day programs offered by waiver providers.
As a civil rights advocate on all fronts: women, gay and lesbian, people with disabilities, blacks, Latinos, Jews, Muslims, and so on, and as one who lives with a brain injury, I, like many others, know only too well what it is to be condescended to, or patronized. We were in no way treated like this by Mark Kissinger and his staff. We were not condescended to or patronized, we were not rushed to end the meeting, and while all the answers were not every inch of what we hoped for, no question we asked was ducked or avoided. We were treated as equals. And that, no matter how you slice it, is good news.
Today was a good beginning for the relationship between the KCAC and the Department of Health. Next, we will be seeking to meet with the Providers Alliance and, of course, we look forward to a follow-up meeting with Mr. Kissinger and his staff.