Next Monday I will go back to the Belvedere Brain Injury Program to talk with survivors and others about the Kahrmann Advocacy Coalition (KAC), the largest survivor-led advocacy coalition for brain injury survivors in the state. It will be my first time back since I was forced out in early 2008 because I would not remain quite when I saw survivors being denied their rights by some (not all) of the leadership in Belvedere’s substance abuse program. Moreover, until now, Belvedere has been, not surprisingly, the only brain injury program in the state that blocked KAC from presenting. The change in their stance is most welcome.
Neither I nor KAC is Belvedere’s enemy.
But this essay is not solely about the politics and power-play of things. It is also about my relationship with a group of remarkable people who attend Belvedere’s day programs. We worked together for years, and our bond, then and now, is deep-in-the-heart close. The forced end to our work together was not simply a brutal one for me emotionally and, for that matter, physically, it was a brutal one for the survivors. I know this because they’ve told me.
In fact, they were so upset then they got a petition together asking for my return and every single survivor signed it and presented it to the owner, John Mccooey. In response Mccooey, who I had for some time considered a friend, met with them and said, no, I couldn’t come back because of forces beyond his control, a excuse that is doubtful at best. About Mccooey: despite his brutal treatment of me in the end, were he hurt tomorrow I’d help him. Doesn’t mean I trust him, that would be something he’d have to earn back, but I’d still help him.
Mccooey back then told me Tim Feeney wanted me out and, by default, so did Pat Gumson and Bruce Rosen, the two New York State Department of Health officials who headed up the Traumatic Brain Injury Waiver at the time. I don’t know how much weight I actually give his excuse. It doesn’t matter though because Feeney has been rather right-sized, Pat Gumson has retired, and Bruce Rosen is working in another area for the DOH, and I’ve not been invited back. The main obstacle to my return was and is Mccooey and, I suspect, his somewhat misguided allegiance to a rather dysfunctional individual who heads up his substance abuse program, the same individual, by the way, who most actively demeaned survivors and denied them their rights.
I was recently asked (not by anyone from Belvedere) if I would be willing to facilitate workshops at Belvedere again. My answer revolves around what is always my focus in matters like this; what is the healthiest choice on the table for the survivors and for me. Were their a healthy way to go about it, I’d certainly consider it. But I would not consider it if I were to again be at risk for bogus accusations from the above referenced dysfunctional individual or anyone else for that matter. To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, I once apologized to Mr. Dysfunction for a misunderstanding and gently touched his shoulder. The next morning I learned that he’d gone scurrying upstairs like a whiney little brat to file a workplace harassment charge against me because I touched him! The charge was dismissed by the way (duh).
Anyway, it will be good to see these folks Monday. They already know, and perhaps Belvedere will figure out, that neither I nor KAC are anti-provider, not even when the provider is Belvedere. We are pro-anything that supports equal rights for all and legitimately helps people living with brain injuries achieve their maximum level of independence and we are against anything that doesn’t. As for my future with Belvedere let me just say: One day at a time.
Monday will be a good day. It will be good to see them and it will be hard to say goodbye.