The care-less leadership in NYS’s DOH & TBISCC

I think I’ve reached the age where if someone is going to lie to me, the least they could do is make a little effort and be halfway good at it. Bad enough there are irresponsible, unethical people who have power over the lives of others, worse when those people lie and make the rules up as they go along, endangering lives of others in the process.

A November 5 article in the New York Times about the frightening state of affairs in New York State is chilling.  It also accurately reflects the kind of sloppy sub-standard oversight the New York State Department of Health has brought to the state’s Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Waiver

It is a well known fact that the DOH refuses to tell people who file complaints related to the TBI Waiver the results of their complaints. They never have. In fact, several Regional Resource Development Specialists, DOH contract employees who oversee the waiver in various regions throughout the state, have told this writer and others they are instructed not to provide the results.  Until recently when their contract to answer the complaint line ended, even the Brain Injury Association of NY State was never informed of the results.

This kind of mangled dysfunction may explain why Deputy DOH Commissioner Mark Kissinger  reminded me last week of the comedian Richard Pryor. Pryor used to tell the story of how his wife caught him in bed with another woman. “You gonna believe me or your lyin’ eyes?!” Pryor exclaimed. And so it was that when last week I emailed Mr. Kissinger asking – again – when the DOH was going to inform complaints of the results of their complaints, he wrote back saying the DOH does inform complainants of the results! Like I said, if someone is going to lie to me the least they could do is make an effort not to sound, well, like a fool. And so, I sent him the dates of complaints I filed in 2010 and 2011 and am still waiting for the results. I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you that a freedom of information request I filed this summer with the DOH asking for the results of my complaints was denied.

And then of course we have the chair of the Traumatic Brain Injury Services Coordinating Council Michael Kaplen who will never remind anyone of Richard Pryor. Kaplen, whose term on the council expired in 2004, still clings to his seat and chairmanship like his life depended on it. His true colors showed during the September 12 council meeting when he  immediately moved to adjourn the meeting  after the council was publicly informed  by this writer that the quality of lives and the lives themselves of waiver participants were at risk because of the DOH. And, when the DOH and New Yorkers with brain injuries could benefit from a TBISCC if it did what its supposed to do, provide proposals to the DOH to better the lives of New Yorkers with brain injuries, Kaplen cancelled the council meeting scheduled for November 15 and provided no follow-up date.

Neither Kaplen nor the DOH will explain the reasons for the cancellation. It has become clear that most if not all council members were given no explanation of the cancellation either.

Let me be clear, the TBI Waiver and the TBISCC are critically important to the lives of New Yorkers with brain injuries. They just need to be run by people who give a damn and who are inclusive in their approach.

Two things: if people suffer and or lose their homes or  lives because of the actions or inactions of the DOH, those in the DOH should be charged, tried, and, if found guilty, jailed. And if the DOH wants to, say, take one small step in the right direction, it might be interested to know that the New York City number it now gives out for the TBI Waiver complaint line belongs to someone who hasn’t worked for them in quite some time. And that’s no lie.



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