The leadership of my state’s Brain Injury Association (BIANYS), Traumatic Brain Injury Services Coordinating Council (TBISCC) and the Department of Health are all fully aware of the damage being inflicted on the lives of brain injury survivors throughout the state by the aforementioned DOH and, because of their silence (complicity), the brain injury association and the council.
The BIANYS board of directors and the members of the TBISCC need to dump their “heads of state” and get the bows of both ships pointed in the right direction – a direction that really does advocate for brain-injured New Yorkers and, in the case of BIANYS and others, not simply use those of us with brain injuries to fill their coffers and inflate their egos.
This September 12 the TBISCC will meet and have some presentation from Mt. Sinai Medical Center (which is all well and good but history shows that all the presentations given to the council over the years have not translated into a single proposal by the council to the DOH; feel free to email me and I will send you all the council minutes if you find this hard to believe) and then they will discuss a concussion bill which is important but they will not say a thing about the brain-injured New Yorkers having their TBI Waiver services cut or being discharged off the waiver altogether, nor will they say a word about waiver participants who are having their housing subsidies cut or ended putting some at risk of homelessness and death. A federal judge protected one life when he stopped the DOH from throwing a brain-injured senior out of her home and asking her for $24,000 in the process.
BIANYS and the TBISCC have been dead silent on all this, yet on September 12th there council chair Michael Kaplen will sit in all his pompousness and there Judith Avner the BIANYS executive director will sit in all her feigned righteousness and both will claim straight-faced to care about those of us who live with brain injuries. If either cared they would not be silent about the matters mentioned in this particular missive, but they are. The DOH’s Maribeth Gnozzio may or may not be there, but if the DOH actually cared about brain-injured New Yorkers Gnozzio would not even be in the picture. All three of these folks seem to be tiny-minded narcissistic control freaks and in the long run, are no more important than bird droppings on a windshield (my apology to the bird population).
The challenge contained in this blog piece is to BIANYS board members and council members. Do your leaders truly represent where you yourself stand when it comes to brain injury survivors? Are you really comfortable with the fact neither group holds the DOH accountable nor does either group live up to its mandate? Are you truly comfortable with the silence both groups exhibit in the face of the DOH’s brutality to those you claim to care about?
For example, I would urge BIANYS board members to carefully review the ebits the organization sends via email to its members. Look at the advocacy section in each and you will not find one example of BIANYS advocating for anything other than giving its support to the concussion bill. I would urge council members to ask for and review council minutes over the years and see if you can find a single example of a proposal by the council to the DOH. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will send them to you. I will also keep your identity private unless directed otherwise. I’ve already talked with some in both groups.
I would urge members of both groups not to fear Avner’s anger nor Kaplen’s for that matter. Kaplen’s bellicose behavior would be rather funny were it not so disrespectful to colleagues and those he claims to care about. Hell, there was a time Kaplen represented me in a lawsuit against the state’s Crime Victims Board which, at the time, was trying to stop reimbursement for any and all phone therapy sessions for crime victims. Kaplen will claim he was the only attorney willing to help which was not true, he offered to help and in the process and tried to get the state to pay him $500 an hour for his efforts (he was helped free of charge in those efforts by others, by the way), money that had the judge not rejected his request, would likely have been taxpayer dollars. I asked Kaplen to speak with me first when the ruling came in so we could discuss how to release it to the media.
Can you guess how I found out the judge ruled in our favor? From a reporter, a reporter Kaplen had called and bragged to. It was then I called and left Kaplen a voicemail message explaining that he should feel a sense of joy that he had not taken this liberty, say, 25 years earlier, because in those days I would’ve simply taken him outside and kicked his ass.
While there will always be Kaplens and Avners and Gnozzios among us, there will always be Kings, Mandelas, Gandhis, Wiesels, Wiesenthals, Darrows, Greers, Steinems, Father Mychal Judges, and more. The question, therefore, is this: are there any of the mindset reflected in this latter group that are on the BIANYS board and the council? If there are, then the days of Kaplen and Avner should be short in number.