For more than a decade now the NYS Traumatic Brain Injury Services Coordinating Council has offered virtually no proposals to the state’s Department of Health and the DOH has not asked for any. Apparently it doesn’t much matter that “Under Article 27-CC of the New York State Public Health Law, the New York State Traumatic Brain Injury Services Coordinating Council is mandated to recommend long-range objectives, goals and priorities, as well as provide advice on the planning, development and coordination of a comprehensive, statewide TBI program.”
Instead, more than 10 years of TBISCC meeting minutes tell us the council – under the leadership of first Charlie Wolf and now Michael Kaplen – has had a wide range of important presenters but failed to come with any real comprehensive proposals for the DOH. The list of presenters is indeed impressive: VESID, NYS Education Department, Office of Mental Heal, NYS Crime Victims Board, Office of Alcohol and Substance Abuse Services, OMRDD (now OPWDD), Office of Advocates for People with Disabilities, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, NYS Division of Veterans Affairs, Unity House, NYS Coalition on Domestic Violence, the Brain Injury Association of NYS and more. But to what end? What is the point?
All this and more makes one wonder why the council has never come up with any comprehensive proposals that include “long-range objectives, goals and priorities, as well as provide advice on the planning, development and coordination of a comprehensive, statewide TBI program.” Is the DOH wielding undue influence behind the scenes? Are there conflict of interest at play that are problematic? Are some members of the council (not all I assure you) there for rather self-serving reasons. Question: Who nominated Charlie Wolf for council chair? Answer: Charlie Wolf!
The TBISCC has an important voice and an important role to fill. It can have and should have an influential presence.
There have been moments, albeit rare ones, when the council has shown signs of life and self-awareness. Minutes from the September 10, 2002 reveal “(t)here was strong concern voiced by many members that the Council has lost its charge and needs to re-think what its purpose is.” Minutes from a September 9, 2003 meeting say the council drafted a letter to then DOH official Betty Rice expressing the council’s dissatisfaction “with not being allowed to review (TBI Waiver Manual’s) revisions.”
Then, like now, the DOH is inexcusably insular and, frankly, arrogant. Here is a state agency charged with overseeing a waiver for people with brain injuries yet they have no required brain injury training for any of their employees, contract or otherwise, and clearly no intention of availing themselves of the huge swaths of knowledge about the subject that has always been available to them with the TBISCC, the Brain Injury Association of NY State (which provides superb training on brain injury), the Alliance of TBI Waiver Providers and more.
My suggestion to the council is to prepare and make some comprehensive proposals, publicize the proposals you make and publicize the response you get from the DOH. Start with a Facebook page, and then expand.