The early stages of a Kahrmann Advocacy Coalition investigation into the make up of brain injury associations across the country is finding there is no shortage of personal injury attorneys on board of directors. The investigation is also beginning to reveal that few (if any) of these attorneys received any formal training in the brain. As many know, people with disabilities and people with brain injury disabilities are often seen (and treated) as if they are little more than potential revenue streams.
Two perfect examples of dysfunction in the world of brain injury disability will be on display tomorrow in Albany: he New York State Traumatic Brain Injury Services Coordinating Council (TBISCC) and the leadership of the state’s brain injury association; both ineffective groups when it comes to advocacy and, given what is going on around the country, they may well be the tip of the dysfunction iceberg when it comes to brain injury disability. The TBISCC will meet in Albany in part to elect a new council chair. However, a major part of the day’s opening agenda is a presentation to the council by Judith Avner, an attorney who is the executive director of the Brain Injury Association of NY State, and someone who several sources say recently blocked people with brain injuries from being on a committee that represented people with brain injuries (fiction writers would he hard pressed to come up with story lines this dysfunctional). So, council members and members of the public will get to watch Ms. Avner represent BIANYS to a council head by Michael Kaplen, a personal injury lawyer who continues to claim the chair position on the council even though his term expired years ago. Not to be outdone on the gall front, Ms. Avner resigned from the council at their last meeting; an organizational feat that would make a magician proud since her term had already expired nearly 10 years ago. Imagine that, resigning from a position you no longer have. Voila!
Despite the fact some of the council members genuinely care about the council’s mission (to provide goals, ideas and strategies to the DOH to improve the life of New Yorkers with brain injury disabilities), the council, to date, has failed miserably. There are several reasons for this. The two council chairs to date, first, Charles Wolf, then, Michael Kaplen, are about as self-serving as it gets. At one point Wolf nominated himself for the position of chair and Kaplen, well…Kaplen’s term as chair expired some years ago but there he sits, claiming the mantel. Another reason for the councils failure is the state’s Department of Health, about as insular and arrogant a state agency that’s ever “walked” the planet.
And then, of course, there have been members of the Brain Injury Association of NY State on the council which is a glaring conflict of interest given the fact the DOH provides the association with a sizeable grant.
There is some hope for the council. If council members elect Barry Dain as chair, the council has a chance of moving in the right direction. If it re-elects Kaplen, nothing will change, and New Yorkers with brain injury disabilities, their families, and the healthcare providers that really do care will be the ones that suffer. The meeting tomorrow is open to the public. Following is the agenda:
TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY SERVICES COORDINATING COUNCIL
Empire State Plaza, Concourse Level
Meeting Room 125
Friday, May 31, 2013
10:30 AM – 3:30 PM
10:30 – 10:45 Welcome
Welcome new member Megan Clothier
Review and Approval of 1/23/13 Meetings Minutes
10:45- 11:15 Review of Brain Injury Association of New York State TBI Recommendations
Judith Avner, Executive Director, BIANYS
11:15 – 12:00 State Agency Updates
NYSED Gerri Malone
OPWDD Nicole Suto/Nina Baumbach
OMH Debby Zeterstrom
CQC Colleen Scott
OASAS Cher Montayne
OVS Ann Marie Calabrese
DFS Jeff Pohl
DOH Lydia Kosinski/Helen Hines/Kitty Gelberg
12:00 – 12:45 LUNCH (Members on their own)
12:45 – 1:15 Election of Chair
Nominees: Michael Kaplen and Barry Dain
1:15 – 2:30 Discussion of role and mission of TBISCC/
Discussion of Bylaw Revisions
2:30 – 3:00 Public Comment
3:00 – 3:30 Summary/Next Meeting Dates/Adjournment