Brain-Injured NYers outrank Michael Kaplen’s hissy fits

The New York State Traumatic Brain Injury Services Coordinating Council this month responded to the news that the lives and homes of brain-injured New Yorkers are in danger because of the state’s Department of Health by immediately adjourning their meeting.

No council member said a word when they were told  a federal judge protected the life of a brain-injured senior by blocking the DOH’s attempt to end her services and collect $24,000 in back housing subsidy from her.  No council member said a word when told that the DOH has been conducting a statewide campaign  to either end or slash services and housing subsidies to brain-injured New Yorkers, even though doing so puts people’s lives and homes at risk. No council member said a word when told that brain-injured New Yorkers who file complaints related to the TBI Waiver are never given the results by the DOH. Not surprisingly, this writer received written notice from the DOH yesterday denying my Freedom of Information Law request to see the results of the complaints I’ve filed. No council member said a word when they heard that the DOH has yet to provide them (or anyone for that matter) with a written policy to memorialize the verbal directive blocking waiver providers from advocating for their clients at Medicaid Fair Hearings, an action that also puts brain-injured New Yorkers at risk.

Instead, the council, at the behest of its perpetually self-absorbed chair Michael Kaplen, adjourned the meeting.

Now, do I actually think that no council members care about the issues raised above? No, I don’t think that at all. In fact some do care and care very much. Then why their silence? I think to some extent the answer rests in the understandable reluctance to deal with Kaplen’s outbursts of temper, his hissy fits.

Kaplen reminds me of the kid in the schoolyard who always throws a hissy fit when he can’t have his way. I was in a Brain Injury Association of NY State (BIANYS) board meeting once when Kaplen, angered that some in the meeting did not agree with him that a board member should remain on the board even though he didn’t attend meetings, proceeded to raise his voice, wag his finger, and threaten to  go around the table and embarrass everyone in the room. It will surprise no one to learn I verbally stepped into him telling him  he was out of line threatening people simply because they didn’t agree with him. People were so upset by his behavior that the meeting took a break and one board member, a brain-injured survivor like myself, was so upset she was trembling.

Kaplen is known for his hissy fits.

This TBISCC meeting was no different. Council member Barry Dain, as good and decent a person as there is in the field of brain injury, found himself dealing with a Kaplen hissy fit when he shared an issue that had surfaced with some providers about perceived inequities in surveys conducted by the Office of the Medicaid Inspector General (OMIG). Kaplen appeared to be trying to shut Dain down by venting his anger and frustration with the state’s Provider’s Alliance – a group of 40 to 50 TBI Waiver Providers – when, as Dain patiently explained, he was not representing the Provider’s Alliance.

In the council meeting prior to this one, Kaplen got himself worked up into a hissy fit when two council members, Dain and Bill Combes, advocated for the right of a brain-injured New Yorker in attendance to speak before the end of the meeting. In a moment best described as an equal mix of comical and, quite frankly, pitiful, Kaplen accused his two colleagues of trying to stir the pot.

It is not surprising that the council’s assistant chair, Judith Avner,  did not seek in either instance to rein Kaplen in, after all they’ve been at the head of the table for years, both on the council and BIANYS, and that is part of the problem. Avner is the executive director of BIANYS, Kaplen its past president.

If brain-injured New Yorkers are going to be given the priority they deserve by groups like the council, members of these groups must step up and stomp out those who seek to control them by throwing hissy fits. Council members cannot afford to cower or respond in silence to Kaplen’s hissy fits. Hissy fits are like any behavior, as long as they get the person’s desired outcome, they won’t stop. 

When groups like the council are told the lives and homes of brain-injured New Yorkers are at risk, they can’t respond by adjourning the meeting because they are afraid of someone’s hissy fits. Whatever challenge one has to face  internally in order deal with a hissy fit pales in comparison to the challenges being faced right now by too many brain-injured New Yorkers because of the DOH.

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