NY State Dept. of Health’s manipulation and deceit

Manipulative and deceitful behavior by New York State Department of Health officials Mark Kissinger and David Hoffman will help you understand why the Center for Public Integrity recently gave New York a D-minus in a recent ranking of states and corruption.

I’ll get to the above referenced behavior in just a second. First, some background.

Governor Cuomo’s DOH seems determined to destroy the lives of thousands by ending the state’s Traumatic Brain Injury Waiver – established by the governor’s father, Mario Cuomo – and the Nursing Home Transition and Diversion Waiver by forcing waiver recipients into managed care.

Waivers provide services that both allow residents to remain in or return to the community as well as grow their independence as much as they can.

Now, Hoffman and Kissinger have been hosting a series of workshops they say are designed to make the transition run smoothly.  With only a few exceptions, the DOH workshop membership largely made of those who, whether they’ll admit it on the record or not,  are all for the DOH’s brutal transition plan.

That waiver recipients and their families and along with honest waiver providers have made it clear the waivers need to be protected has, so far, had little effect. That nearly all the witnesses at a an October 8 public hearing hosted by the Assembly Health Committee, Mental Health & Developmental Disability Committee, and Task Force on People with Disabilities warned the state’s plan would have catastrophic results, has not dissuaded the governor, or the DOH, or the many pawns in the DOH work group in the least.

Manipulation and deceit

I recently attended one of the DOH work group meetings. They are public meetings and members of the public, like me, can attend. When the public was asked to comment, some of us did.  A couple of weeks ago I sent Kissinger an email asking him to please send me a listing of who was on the DOH Workgroup. He forwarded the request to Hoffman, and then, Hoffman emailed me the list.

To my surprise, I and other members of the public were listed as members of the work group! Wrong. I emailed Hoffman and asked him of the mistake, pointing out that you can’t list members of the public as being members of the work group because it’s not true. And, they did it without asking permission.

I figured Hoffman (the DOH) would recognize the mistake and correct it. Wrong again.

When Hoffman responded he wrote. “Everyone in attendance is welcome to participate in comments and questions (as you saw) and so are included in the listing.” In other words, if you are a member of the public, and during the public comment portion of the agenda, say something, we’re going to list you as a member of the work group and we are going to do it without your permission.

Subsequent emails to Hoffman and Kissinger asking them to stop this deceit have resulted in a response the DOH has honed to perfection. Silence.

Now that I think of it, the Center for Public Integrity was generous when it gave New York a D-minus. Hell, I think giving  New York an F would be generous.






A coward named Cuomo

Whether you liked him as the governor of New York or not, only a fool would doubt the courage of Mario Cuomo. He stood fast in his opposition to the death penalty (I oppose it too) even when he knew many disagreed.  He was courageous man. Not so his son, the current governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo. All I know makes it clear to me he is a coward and, if you permit me a redundancy, a wimp.

Numerous sources tell me about the bullying he likes to do behind the scenes. Bullies are cowards. Able to act all tough and strong when there is no one to challenge them. Leave it to Cuomo  to run around New York playing like he’s John Wayne when inmates David Sweat and Richard Matt escaped. Notice Cuomo was always surrounded by state police. Easy to play tough guy when you have some real-life armed toughs as your escort.

And now, Cuomo has his Department of Health on the brink of pulverizing the lives of New Yorkers with brain injuries and the business stability of those who provide services to them under the state’s Traumatic Brain Injury Waiver Program. A waiver is a Medicaid reimbursement program that provide services so a vulnerable part of the population can live in the community or return to community life. It’s been in this state for 21 years now.  And under whose watch did it come to be?  Mario Cuomo’s, the Cuomo with the courage and integrity and compassion for others. Andrew’s DOH wants to shove the waiver into a form of managed care that will destroy the lives of New Yorkers with brain injuries, remove their housing subsidies, and get rid of their case managers. 

In other words, the son wants to destroy something great built by his father.

The reason? Well, one of Cuomo’s flunkies, DOH Official Mark Kissinger says, managed care is the way of the future.  Well, if the goal is to destroy lives and rob people of their independence, I suppose he’s right. Kissinger admits he has no formal training in the brain and the DOH admits no one on its staff addressing the needs of New Yorkers with brain injuries have any formal training in the brain either.

Another of Cuomo’s flunkies is yet another coward, a DOH official named Maribeth “Knuckles” Gnozzio.   Knuckles only escaped federal prosecution thanks to a plea deal her husband, New Jersey’s former Hudson  County executive and now convicted felon, Robert Janiszewski, cut with the feds. Media reports say the aforementioned Knuckles Gnozzio was spared charges as a result of Janiszewski’s agreement with the FBI. Too bad.  According to the Hudson Reporter, “Election records from 2001 show that the entire time that former Hudson County Executive Robert Janiszewski was working for the federal government, he was apparently directing campaign funds to a private campaign account” kept in the Knuckles’ name.

When this writer brought these details to the attention of Cuomo’s DOH, Knuckles was a contract employee. And how did Cuomo respond? As soon as Knuckles’ contract ran her made her a DOH staff member.  You have to have others do your dirty work when you’re a coward, and cowards like Knuckles fit the bill.

Several sources who were present say that during an October 6 DOH meeting about the state’s plan to knowingly destroy the lives of brain injury survivors,Knuckles said if people with brain injuries who were on the waiver were put on psychotropics they wouldn’t need waiver services.  At least the DOH’s support of chemical restraints is out in the open.

I’ve sent several emails asking the DOH to answer some questions, including an email to Knuckles asking her to explain her comments about drugging up waiver participants. And guess what? They refuse to respond. Why? Because they are cowards.

If any of you are wondering if this missive is meant, in part, to get a coward named Cuomo to step into the open with me, you bet. Do I think he will? No. He’s a coward. However, I’d be only too delighted to find out he found some unused courage sitting around one of his dresser drawers, under his socks maybe. Then we would meet in a public forum. Just the two of us, Andrew, no armed escorts, no Knuckles.

With their hearts on my mind

I will be testifying today at a public hearing being held by members of the New York State Assembly about Governor Andrew Cuomo’s plan to demolish the lives of New Yorkers with brain injuries by moving them into managed care and annihilating the services they need and deserve to protect their independence – and keep their homes.

I’ve got plenty of motivation. In addition to my own brain injury, I live with a bullet lodged in my brain as a result of being held up and shot in the head, I know hundreds of New Yorkers with brain injuries. Incredible individuals who only ask for respect, and respect includes access to the care they deserve and the independence they have a right to keep.

  • I know a young man who suffered his brain injury in a car accident; he witnessed the decapitation of two of his friends during the accident.
  • I know a woman who one winter day was walking through a park with her husband pulling her two toddlers on a sled. A drunk snowmobile driver crashed into them. When this woman came out of a coma she learned she would never again move from the neck down, and she learned that both her children had died in the accident.
  • I know a brave woman who is a wheelchair user as a result of her brain injury, an injury caused by meningitis caused by a mosquito bite.
  • I know five good men who, like me, suffered their brain injuries from being shot in the head.

That’s just a sampling of the many survivors of brain injuries I know. I can barely see through the tears now as I think about them all, and contemplate the suffering  the Cuomo administration wants to inflict on them. I will testify today with the hearts of thousands on my mind. Not at all incidentally, the very people in Cuomo’s Department of Health who devised this plan openly acknowledge they know nothing about the brain or brain injury.

Now, there are some truly good people in the New York State legislature.  I’ve met them. I even believe in them.  I know too that to do the right thing for New Yorkers with brain injuries they will have to stand up to some intense opposition from a governor who many say is something of a bully.

I do not fear bullies. Not even a little.

I believe members of the state’s legislature have it in them to stand up and do the right thing. Consider the document below. It is the triage assessment of me the morning I got shot. The circled area says, in part, Patient walked into the ER accompanied by the police. Profuse bleeding from head wound. It was five in the morning when I got shot. When I regained consciousness, there was no one around. I got back to me feet and got myself help. So, if I can stand up and get myself help after being shot in the head at point blank range, I have no doubt members of the NY State Legislature have the capacity to stand up and do the right thing for New Yorkers with brain injuries. The question is, will they?


Cuomo’s Dept. of Health gets even sleazier

When the New York State Traumatic Brain Injury Services Coordinating Council was formed in the 1990s when the late Mario Cuomo was governor who could have imagined that less than 20 years later, his son and current governor, Andrew Cuomo, would do everything in his power to undermine and pulverize, not just the council’s ability to function, but the sense of safety and right-to-privacy citizens have when attending the TBISCC’s public meetings.

During a remarkably productive TBISCC meeting this Friday, this writer learned and attorney for the state’s DOH, Nicholas Cartagena (nicholas.cartagena@health.ny.gov)  issued an email to a private citizen saying  if she wanted copies of the council’s minutes she would need to file a FOIL (Freedom of Information Law) request. For the past two decades council minutes were made available to members of the public once approved by the council. They’d be available at the meetings or sent via email or regular mail.

There’s an even more ominous sign in Cartagena’s email. He says the TBISCC is part of the DOH and therefore it documents are subject to FOIL. This is the first time to this writer’s knowledge that a state official has blatantly claimed the council is part of the DOH and therefore the DOH runs the show. While this certainly appears to violate the legislation that formed the council; it unequivocally violates the purpose of the council, which, under this governor more than any other, seems to be the goal.

This is just one more example of Cuomo’s DOH doing all it can to be obstructionist, when it comes to the public’s right to know what it’s government and  advisory councils to state agencies are doing.

Not only does a FOIL requirement violate the construct of the relationship the advisory council has with the public, it puts an unnecessary and punitive burden on people with brain injury disabilities.

  • First: Submitting a FOIL request to the DOH is a laborious and time consuming process, largely because of the DOH’s at times blatant resistance and disingenuous posturing in response to the request. I recently submitted a FOIL request (after an email request to Deputy DOH Commissioner Mark Kissinger was ignored) asking who in the DOH was drafting the manual for the TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury Waiver).  After a month I was informed the DOH needed an additional month to gather the names. When the names identifying those creating the manual finally arrived, months after the FOIL was submitted, they were: Mark Kissinger, Lydia Kosinski, Maribeth (Knuckles) Gnozzio and Dawn Weiss, the latter three all directly under Kissinger. In other words, Kissinger and the DOH knew and had the requested information the moment it was asked for.
  • Second: The DOH can legally charge 25 cents a page for documents provided as a result of a FOIL request, making it a financial burden for those on fixed incomes like, say, many New Yorkers with brain injuries.

Unless one’s been living under a rock, or, is severely delusional, it seems quite clear that Andrew Cuomo is New York’s version of New Jersey’s Chris Christie. He’s a bully. Something his father was not. He also doesn’t give a damn about New Yorkers with brain injury disabilities, a group of people his father genuinely cared about.

Perhaps when no one was looking, Cuomo took a pledge not to follow in his father’s footsteps. If so, he’s living up to it. I’ll give him that.

Cuomo’s DOH: secretive, cruel, dishonest & incompetent

Whether or not you’re on the New York State’s Traumatic Brain Injury Medicaid Waiver, you’ve got no allies in Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Department of Health. In fact, Cuomo’s DOH is the main reason NYers with brain injury disabilities are struggling to get the services they deserve.

Recently this writer asked Deputy DOH Commissioner Mark Kissinger who in the DOH was drafting the new TBI Waiver Manual. He would not tell me. Never mind that he oversees the waiver and knew the answer, he simply would not tell me. I then filed a FOIL (Freedom of Information Law) request for the information. After about twenty days I received notice via email that the DOH needed another 30 days to gather the information.

In other words, I was being asked to believe that Kissinger genuinely needed 50 days in all to figure out who worked for him. 

In all likelihood the reason for the DOH’s reluctance to provide the information is linked to the following fact. Not one of the people drafting the manual have any expertise at all in the brain. Not a clinician among them. In fact, when the information requested  finally arrived, those drafting the manual are some of the DOH folks who’ve been inflicting the most damage on waiver recipients, cutting services whenever they can think of an excuse, ending housing subsidies, limiting services, and sending out notices seeking to throw people off the waiver altogether.

Who are those in the DOH drafting the manual (an in-progress document the DOH will not share with anyone)? Kissinger, Lydia Kosinski, Dawn Wiese and, Maribeth “Knuckles” Gnozzio. Gnozzio stopped attending meetings of the state’s Traumatic Brain Injury Services Coordinating Council (TBISCC) once her rather problematic background was fully exposed in this blog. Never mind that she’s the program director for the waiver, why bother to attend council meetings when the council’s legislative mandate is to help the DOH identify effective ways of growing the lives of NYers with brain injuries?

The DOH’s dishonesty is on display anytime it professes to care about NYers with brain injuries.

It warehouses some with brain injuries in other states, and despite spending millions of NY taxpayer dollars for their care, refuses to follow-up when informed a NYer placed out of state is suffering or, worse still, being neglected, abused. At a recent TBISCC meeting DOH officials were anything but response when asked what, if anything, prevents New York from filing a complaint with the federal government’s Centers for  Medicaid & Medicare Services (CMS) if it suspects a NYer placed out of state is not getting proper care. CMS oversees long term care in all the states. The fact is, the DOH doesn’t care. Despite the huge sums for keeping NYers placed out of state, sources say it is less expensive than bringing them home.

Lest anyone think there is an upside to the DOH, consider this.  A federal judge had to issue a restraining order in 2011 to prevent the DOH from throwing from throwing a 66-year-old disabled woman off the the TBI Waiver and ending her housing subsidy and demanding the woman pay them $24,000, all without explanation. Actions that would have likely put her life in danger by rendering her homeless.

Can you guess who in the DOH were driving the bus back  in 2011? Let me help you: Kissinger, Kosinski, and “Knuckles” Gnozzio. Three of those drafting the TBI Waiver manual. No wonder they didn’t want anyone to know.