Is the Kaplen-Avner Show the problem?

It is revealing but not surprising that the New York’s Brain Injury Association – not the state’s Traumatic Brain Injury Services Coordinating Council (TBISCC) or Department of Health – is announcing what the next TBISCC meeting will be about.  It is no secret that the leadership of all three groups are, figuratively speaking, in bed together. It is also no coincidence that Michael Kaplen and Judith Avner lead the council and both, until recently, led BIANYS. Avner is still the BIANYS executive director.

According to the BIANYS website, “The September meeting will be dedicated to a discussion of the Concussion Management and Awareness Act (S. 3953-B) which passed the legislature at the end of the session. Discussion will focus on recommendations on the implementation of that legislation to the Commissioner of the Department of Health.” The passage of the act is, without question, a positive step forward. For the council to provide recommendations is all well and good and certainly appropriate. How is it, though, that BIANYS knows, before it is a announced

It is also no secret that little if any evidence exists of BIANYS or TBISCC leadership ever taking the DOH to task for some of its rather brutal treatment of brain injury survivors and, not incidentally, its rather brutal treatment those who provide services to brain injury survivors. New York’s Brain Injury Providers Alliance, for example, has, for some time now, been rightfully pleading with the DOH for a statewide uniform billing policy and they are still waiting.

What is not appropriate and what is an act of disloyalty pure and simple to New York’s brain-injured individuals is the fact TBISCC and BIANYS leadership will do anything but hold DOH accountable.

Some examples:

  • The council was asked to look into the blatant injustice of the state’s TBI Waiver complaint line managed jointly by the DOH and BIANYS. Complainants are never told the outcomes of their complaints, a lack of due process by any measure.
  • With only one or two exceptions, the council has tip-toed around the fact the DOH has told TBI Waiver providers they cannot side with complainants at Medicaid Fair Hearings. BIANYS has completely avoided addressing this issue.
  • The TBISCC and BIANYS remain dead silent even though a recent article in the Albany Times Union  and this blog have reported DOH’s effort to use any excuse under the sun to discontinue housing subsidies for brain-brain injured individuals even when doing so would leave them homeless and jeopardize their lives. 

One question that needs to be asked is this. Is the Kaplen-Avner show the problem? A step in the right direction would be for  Kaplen and Avner to step down, then we would find out.


One thought on “Is the Kaplen-Avner Show the problem?

  1. it should not be a surprise that the TBSSCC and BIANYS have been run by the same people for many years. Are there any other people interested to give to the community except the same people been shuffled back and forth? Kaplen is a lawyer who's probably doing very well with representing brain injured people and this involevement gives him access to more such people and connections. DOH has made sure to have the "right" people running those organizations so that they all collude together and keep a "wall of agreement and silence".The TBISCC must be renewed and it must invite and ensure participation from all STAKEHOLDERS-DOH, provider organizations, advocates, participants and their families. ONLY then it would have legitimacy and truly represent the program and everyone associated with it. It should also – to the degree possible – make every effort to hold meetings at other parts of the state including NYC. It is not a coincidence that their meetings are ONLY held in Albany. DOH has shunned the Provider Alliance and has disregarded to a large extent the recommnedations they have made over the last several years. To this day they have not agreed to have a regular consistent mode of communication with the provider alliance. why? it makes abosulte sense to maintain regular communication and receive valuable feedback from the providers who actually provide the services. Another sugestion is for DOH to also hold regular meetings – town hall meetings – across the state whereas providers, families, participants, advocates could attend and provide DOH valuable feedback. Why is it that they never do that? DOH does not have a truly confidential way to receive complaints. Providers and participants and their families may have significant complaints about the RRDS for example but there is not a truly confidential way to contact DOH without fear of reprisal from the RRDC. It is reported that currently in NYC there are significant delays in approving service plans which puts the participant's services at risk. In addition without approved plans providers cannot bill therefore also puts a tremendous unfair strain on providers. The same RRDC is also delaying processing or following up on new referrals; they delay processing provider applications from interested potentially new providers; they do not respond or avoid participating in team meetings with providers and participants; they do not provide technical assistance to providers and other stakeholders as they manual states they should. Moreover, different RRDS across the state report different things and are never consistent with policies and regulations; all these things affect services. RRDS themselves would often report privately that they get minimal support from DOH and of course nothing in writing. No one wants to take any responsibility. The only way DOH responds is when pressure comes from above and outside like the news. They will habitually ignore providers, participants, advocates, etc but they do not want anyhting in the news or gaining publicity and potentially the attention of peolple above them. Historically that is the only way they have responded. just some thoughts to stir a discussion…


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