End the Kaplen-Avner Show

It will surprise no one to learn that New York State’s Traumatic Brain Injury Services Coordinating Council and  Brain Injury Association (I am almost repeating myself) are ignoring requests to look into the bogus complaint line for the TBI Waiver and investigate a state Department of Health’s directive blocking waiver providers from advocating for their clients at Medicaid Fair Hearings. It is sadly not surprising that the requests had to be made in the first place.

As readers of this blog will recall, the DOH never tells complainants the outcomes of their complaints. BIANYS, under the leadership of Judith Avner and, historically, of Michael Kaplen, entered into a contract with the DOH to answer complaint line calls knowing full well complainants are never given the results.

As long as council and BIANYS leadership are not held accountable by their members and, in the case of BIANYS, the board of directors, nothing will change, and the lives of brain-injured individuals in the state will continue to suffer for it.

Why are the requests being ignored? Because, if one agrees that actions speak louder than words, the leadership of the council and  the brain injury association (again I am almost repeating myself) don’t really care.  In fact, a July 5 publication in this blog reveals that the TBISCC has failed miserably to live up to its purpose which is, in short, to provide proposals to the DOH to best serve brain injury survivors in the state.  The only thing that falls into the category of a proposal is a proposed trust for brain injury survivors in the state that would also benefit the brain injury association.  Avner displayed some of her true colors by voting for the trust fund anyway even though doing so clearly violated the public officer’s law which council bylaws require members to follow.

Council chair Michael Kaplen’s penchant for self-aggrandizement  and adding cases to his legal coffers is well known. I remember a yearly best-practice brain injury conference hosted by the state’s Department of Health (they were around 2003 or 2004 when some of us noticed that Kaplen had deposited business cards from his law firm on every table in the conference; at the time he was president of the state’s brain injury association and then and now Judith Avner was the association’s executive director. A few of us went around the room and removed them.

Avner, on the other hand, is dazzlingly skilled at lip service. I’ve walked away from meetings with her thinking brain injury survivors are lucky she is around only to realize (at greater speed as the years have passed) that she didn’t commit to a thing, didn’t agree to a thing, and, above all, made sure BIANYS did nothing that even remotely held the DOH accountable.

One would like to think Avner and Kaplen would, in their heart of hearts, feel guilty for repeatedly letting brain-injured individuals down; but feelings like this require a conscience, something both  seem to be running short on.

As a friend of mine said recently, there needs to be a grassroots uprising in order to address the Kaplen-Avner show and, let us not forget the non-responsive Maribeth Gnozzio of DOH Fame. Perhaps it might be interesting to conduct non-violent protests at the homes of all three. It’s been too long since protests like this have surfaced in Chappaqua, Delmar and Tannersville.

Here is the agenda for the TBISCC Council meeting  September 12.


NYS Department of Health

Empire State Plaza, NYS Museum Meeting Room A

(Concourse level of NYS Museum)

Monday, September 12, 2011

10:30 AM – 4:00 PM


10:30am – 10:45am Welcome

Review and Approval of Minutes from June 20, 2011 Meeting

10:45am – 11:45am Kristen Dams-O’Connor, Ph.D., Screening for Concussion in Collegiate Athletes, Brain Injury Research Center, Mt. Sinai Medical Center

11:45am – 12:45pm Brian Greenwald, M.D., Medical Director, Brain Injury Rehabilitation Program, Mt. Sinai Medical Center

12:45pm – 1:15pm LUNCH (members on their own)

1:15pm – 2:15pm Todd Nelson, Concussion Management Information/Guidelines, New York State Public High School Athletic Association

2:15pm – 3:15pm Discussion of Concussion Management and Awareness Act  (S. 3953-B)

3:15pm – 3:45pm Subcommittee reports

· Healthcare Reform/Non-Waiver Service Needs

· Public Awareness/ Injury Prevention and Information Dissemination

3:45pm – 4:00pm Public Comment/Summary/Next Steps/Adjournment



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