One wonders how some who work for the New York State Department of Health manage to sleep at night. Not all who work for the DOH mind you, but some.
There are reports, reliable ones folks, from around the state that make it clear there is a sustained effort underway to cut Medicaid spending, the carnage inflicted on the lives of brain injury survivors be damned. As this blog has reported, reliable sources say the DOH has directed that those individuals who work for waiver providers, companies and individuals in the state who help brain injury survivors live in the community and grow their independence, are to side against the survivors they work with and with the DOH if those survivors ask for a Medicaid Fair Hearing to challenge some DOH ruling that, of late, means they are either disenrolled from the waiver or are having their services cut.
One wonders how Maribeth Gnozzio, whose never met an email or phone call she can’t ignore, sleeps. She’s ignored queries from this writer (and brain injury survivor) whether those queries were about my own case or about the treatment of brain injury survivors across the state. When I had what I’d thought was a pre-conference before my Fair Hearing, scheduled for December 1 next week at 1 p.m., she didn’t bother coming even though the two RRDSs (actually one is an assistant RRDS but what the hell…) said they couldn’t change any decision – the DOH had your request for a Life Alert and white noise machines not us – because I, not they, had failed to ask them to invite someone from the DOH. I explained to them that since they are DOH contract employees they were the ones who should have invited a DOH person (I’m using the word person loosely here).
Incidentally, I asked the two RRDSs (Maria Relyea and Rob Korotitich), who claimed they didn’t realize the pre-conference to the Fair Hearing was the pre-conference to the Fair Hearing (I know, I know…I wouldn’t believe it either except I was there and they really claimed they didn’t know..Scout’s honor, that’s what they said) if we could maybe have another pre-conference and this time would they bring someone from the DOH. They dragged there feet on this and then offered a pre-conference date of November 29th before we all agreed that was silly since the Fair Hearing was December 1 and they – meaning the DOH – wouldn’t have time to review any new material I provided. I asked them if they had planned to bring someone from the DOH on the 29th and they said no, the DOH had given them permission to represent the DOH, which is exactly what they are contracted to do in the first place.
As for how people like Gnozzio and her ilk sleep, I imagine they sleep well. I say this because only people with a conscience would find sleep difficult because they treated people with disabilities like they are non-entities. But given that Gnozzio and those other DOH folks copied on the emails sent to her don’t respond, they seem to have no conscience.
Oh, I’ve asked that Gnozzio, who, according to the two RRDSs just mentioned, was a significant player in the decision to deny my assistive technology request, be present at the Fair Hearing.
If I were a betting man, I’d feel quite comfy betting she’ll be a no show. She and those like her will either be hard at work denying people like me our rights, or they’ll be sleeping.
Lest anyone think I’ve been unduly harsh here, consider the following two examples followed by an observation:
The DOH is making a concerted effort to make it as difficult as possible for people living with brain injuries to be successful in a Fair Hearings. It’s not simply that they are either flat out telling waiver staff, who more often than not pour their hearts and souls into their work, that they can’t support the brain injury survivors they work with at the Fair Hearing, they are leaving brain injury survivors, many of whom deal with memory deficits, communication challenges, organizational challenges and more, to fend for themselves in the hearing.
I’ve had reports from one area of the state that RRDSs have told survivors that if they continue the services the DOH wants to cut from their lives until the Fair Hearing (something they have a right to do) and then lose the Fair Hearing, they will have to pay back every penny themselves. This threat leveled at people on fixed incomes that are so low they are anything but fixed, unless of course you mean the fix is in, is vicious and ruthless. This threat so terrifies survivors they opt out of Fair Hearings. This threat is nothing more than an intimidation tactic on the part of DOH.
The Observation: Someone I deeply respect recently reminded me that RRDSs are often the signatures on the page that bears the bad news for the brain injury survivor, not the author of its content. True. However, the person who is the RRDS has accepted a job in which he or she is willing to go along with denial of rights and intimidation tactics and so as far as I’m concerned, they’re just as responsible as whoever authored the page. Hell, if simply being a side-line player in a work environment where survivors were being denied their rights was morally acceptable, I’d still be working with the Belvedere Brain Injury Program, and I’m not. I can’t speak for others or tell others how to manage their moral compass, but there is no job position or amount of money in the world that has the power to make me take part, directly or indirectly, in denying people their rights.