Notes on NYS’s TBI Council

You simply can’t make it up.

The Traumatic Brain Injury Services Coordinating Council meeting Monday was chaired by Michael Kaplen who flashed some anger during the meeting which would have been laughable were it not so disrespectful of council members and, frankly, brain injury survivors. It earned Kaplen the crown for the meeting’s most despicable moments. On top of that, the NYS Department of Health’s report on the status of the state’s TBI Waiver is something you would have missed if you made the mistake of blinking.

Kaplen’s inexcusably despicable moments came in the wake of an attempt by a brain injury survivor in the audience to ask a question. Kaplen interrupted the survivor telling him there was a protocol which required members of the public to wait until all council members had asked their questions. Kaplen, who is forever proclaiming himself  an expert in brain injury, seems to have forgotten that some who live with brain injuries have memory challenges and may not remember  their questions. When council member Bill Combes of the state’s Commission on the Quality of Care offered to cede his question time to the survivor, Kaplen became visibly angry with Combes. Kaplen was equally angry with council member Barry Dain who pointed out that survivors of brain injury are often faced with cognitive challenges that include memory deficits.

Kaplen’s finger-wagging anger is childish in the best light, bully-like in the worst, and clearly not the kind of behavior one wants in a council member much less the council’s chair.  As for the protocol he referenced, neither the council’s bylaws nor Robert’s Rules of Order – something council bylaws require the council follow – preclude the  council from allowing members of the public to ask questions during the meeting. Kaplen apparently does not feel he is beholden to Robert’s Rules which require that remarks by council members “be courteous in language and deportment.”

When the DOH’s Charlotte Mason reported on the status of the TBI Waiver she said all things were pretty much the same as they were at the time of the last council meeting, entirely omitting the fact the DOH ended the statewide neurobehavioral project with no discernible transition plan in place, leaving everyone with no concrete reason to believe plans have been made to continue those badly needed services in any shape, manner or form. Moreover, Mason did not mention the DOH’s continued assault on services being received by waiver participants nor what some consider a willful effort to discharge as many people from the waiver as possible. Other than council vice-chair Judith Avner asking about the end of the neurobehavioral contract and Combes asking if the DOH had any information about service coordinators being prevented from siding with their clients at Medicaid Fair Hearings, council members asked not a single question about the TBI Waiver.

The DOH’s Mary Ann Anglin answered Combes’ question by indicating a document was being prepared addressing the fair hearings matter which was indeed the very same thing the DOH said months ago.

Is it any wonder members of the real advocacy community and some members of the council itself are clearly frustrated with a council that seems to do just about everything but follow its mandate which, according to its own bylaws, includes “recommending to the (NYS) Department (of Health) long range objectives, goals and priorities. It shall also provide advice on the planning, coordination and development of services needed to meet the needs of persons with traumatic brain injury and their families” and a council that seeks to anything but hold the DOH accountable for its actions?

While both Bill Kraus, acting director of the NYS Division of Veteran’s Affairs, and Tim Donovan of the SUNY Youth Sports Institute, offered impressive presentations about how their respective groups were addressing the challenge of brain injury, Kaplen questioned both men choosing to focus on what they weren’t doing rather than giving them well-deserved credit for the good work they are doing.

During the public comment session at meetings end this writer asked two things of the the council on behalf of the Kahrmann Advocacy Coalition:

  1. To review the current TBI Waiver complaint agreement  between the DOH and the Brain Injury Association of NY State. The current protocol does not require the DOH to inform complainants of the outcome of their complaints. To my knowledge, complainants are never informed. The current complaint line protocol  is absent all presence of justice and is morally and ethically corrupt.
  2. To hold public hearings and invite survivors of brain injury, their family and friends, as well as providers of TBI Waiver services, to report to the council on what they are experiencing with the TBI Waiver.

This writer has filed a FOIL request for all council minutes. It will be interesting to learn how much recommending the council has actually done under Kaplen’s watch and under the watch of his predecessor, Charles Wolf. How many proposals has the council actually presented to the DOH and what has been their fate? Those of us who live with brain injuries as well as our loved ones and the providers across the state who try to help us have a right to know.

It was, I am sure, no coincidence that no copies of meeting minutes were made available for the public at Monday’s meeting. You can request copies of the TBISCC minutes by emailing Cheryl Veith at the DOH: cld02@health.state.ny.us You can also ask that you be put on the mailing list to receive notice of upcoming meeting and copies of the agendas as the become available. The next TBISCC meeting is September 12.

 

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