NY StateTBI Providers Alliance in Disarray

Nearly the entire board of directors for the New York State Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Providers Alliance  walked out late last year after learning two board members, the presidents of the Belvedere Brain Injury Program and Elder Choice, filed grant applications for their companies falsely claiming their applications had alliance support, said several former board members who asked not to be identified.

According to former board members, John Mccooey, president of Belvedere and Aaron Harris, president of the Elder Choice Home Care Agency, filed grant applications claiming they had the support of the alliance when nothing could be further from truth. Former board members say when Mccooey and Harris were confronted about this and asked to see the complete grant applications, Mccooey and Harris refused their request. Moreover, until this writer sent repeated requests for comment to Harris and Mccooey (neither responded), the alliance website  continued to list names of the former board members as if they were current board members. Within 48 hours of this writer asking for comment, the names were removed (months after the board members had walked out).

A look at the alliance website today lists several board vacancies.

All this is bad news for the many good and decent TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) and NHTD (Nursing Home Transition and Diversion) waiver providers. The providers alliance was a great idea, a chance for providers to really work together for the common good of all. And, for a time, they did exactly that. However, former board members say the one-vote-per-provider rule was jettisoned when Mccooey and Harris stacked the room with their staff: Karina Davis-Corr, for example, is listed on the alliance website as secretary for the Syracuse Utica North Regional of the alliance; she is Belvedere’s executive director in Syracuse.

Former board members expressed disgust, seeing Mccooey’s and Harris’s behavior as little more than self-serving power grabs.  Two former board members said they’re quite sure Mccooey intends to control as much of the two state waivers as he possibly can. Two said they’d never work with Mccooey again. One former board member said Mccooey “was a bit loony.” Perhaps the gentlest review came from one former board member who said the work at hand was far too serious to be spending time with adults who act like children.

Needless to say (or perhaps not), the ones that will suffer the most are the many good and decent providers and the individuals who are or could be receiving services from the two waivers. A 2011 interview about the alliance with Aaron Harris  which can be seen on youtube is unsettling, in part because Harris tried and failed to define a TBI, saying the answer depends on who you ask. Not true. Here’s the answer. Acquired Brain Injuries are any brain injuries that occur after birth regardless of the cause. A traumatic brain injury is a subset of these. A TBI is a brain injury caused by external blow to the head: car accident, gun shot, fall, mugging…and so on. Strokes, for example, would not fall into the category of TBI.

As for Mccooey and Harris, both serve as  reminders that Abraham Lincoln was right: “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”




Mccooey & Feeney Now Targeting Children

If you’re looking for integrity and honesty in business leadership you’d be well advised to avoid the likes of John Mccooey and Timothy J. Feeney. If you’re looking for honesty and integrity in healthcare, healthcare for your children, then, when it comes to Feeney and Mccooey you might want to crawl under a rock. Wait, better not. Under a rock is exactly where you’re likely to find Mccooey and Feeney. They head-up an Albany-based company called  OB2L (Overcoming Barriers to Learning) .

Readers of this blog know that in 2008 this writer revealed that Timothy J. Feeney had for years misrepresented his education credentials to all comers. While Feeney has a legitimate bachelor’s degree, his so-called masters and PhD were issued by a now defunct diploma mill called Greenwich University that operated on Norfolk island off the coast of Australia before closing its doors. GU was a non-accredited diploma mill whose degrees have never been recognized as valid anywhere on planet earth. The Australian government issued an alert about GU.

None of this has stopped Mccooey and Feeney from joining forces and targeting children with disabilities on a website that lists Feeney as Timothy J. Feeney, PhD. Both Mccooey and Feeney know this claim is untrue but that hasn’t stopped them from targeting children with autism, fetal alcohol syndrome, traumatic brain injury, substance abuse issues, mental illness, ADHD and reactive attachment disorder.

What’s equally curious and deeply disturbing is the website’s claim that this company has worked with 130 school districts around the world.

Will they get away with it? We’ll see. New York State only offers title protection, meaning one can’t claim to be a social worker, doctor, psychologist, or psychiatrist without the necessary degrees from accredited institutions. My guess is the Feeney-Mccooey duo is trying to thread the needle by saying the former has a PhD. We’ll see how far it gets them.

One last note. When I met Mccooey in 2001 he told me that at one time in his life he was thinking of becoming a monk. I suspect there are at least two reasons he did not pursue this.  You can’t live a life revolving around making money and shoring up a fragile ego as a monk and, in order to be a monk, you have to be in possession of a conscience.

More on compassion, love & advocacy

Three very thoughtful comments in response to the last blog post,  Anger, compassion, love, advocacy & BIANYS,  along with some equally thoughtful emails and phone conversations have helped me recognize it would be wise for me to write more about what one reader accurately summed up: “Your recent blog piece sounds like you are reviewing your advocacy tactics.” It’s true. I am and always try to with varying degrees of success.

All of us are wise to keep track of the patterns we find ourselves in. Sometimes it takes those close to us to point them out, and if we are centered enough, we can try on these observations and change accordingly without falling into the trap of clinging to old habits. John Steinbeck once wrote, “We are creatures of habit, a very senseless species.” How true.

I want to comment a bit on some of what I’ve read and heard in response to the last blog piece. But first  we must stipulate to the fact that the very act of holding people and organizations accountable may upset people. I can’t do anything about this. What I can do is advocate with intensity and tenacity and honesty and do my level best not to make anything sound personal. But, if leaders of various groups, government agencies, and others blatantly ignore those they claim to serve, I am going to say so. If organizations do not do what they tell people they do, I am going to say so. I have no other choice. One thing is very clear, things can’t go along business as usual when it comes to the realities currently being faced not just by brain-injured New Yorkers but by all people with disabilities in this state and beyond.

What I must pay close attention to is my contribution to the push for change. People in leadership positions must recognize and, in their choices, live the following reality: the Kahrmann Advocacy Coalition is not about Peter Kahrmann any more than the Brain Injury Association of NY State is about Judy Avner or Marie Cavallo, or the Traumatic Brain Injury Services Coordinating Council is about Michael Kaplen and Judy Avner. These groups are about and only about the people they are there to serve. And if any of us – including me! – gets too it’s-all-about-me, people around us need to call our attention to this and we need to listen and change accordingly.

Some things are not personal. It is not a personal attack for me to point out that Michael Kaplen and Judy Avner are sitting on a council even though their terms expired seven and eight years ago respectively. There is something not right about this and it needs to be addressed and I would point out this truth gives them the opportunity  to do what anyone – including me – in leadership positions must do – and that is recognize when we’ve fumbled or gone wrong and do the right thing. There is nothing personal about my pointing out that the council, certainly under Kaplen’s chairmanship, has failed to do pretty much of anything it was designed to do, and this is something he needs to reflect on, step down, and let others take the lead.  Upon hearing that George Washington stepped down after his second presidential term, King George of England said, “If Washington gave up power he is the greatest man on earth.”

Now, to the comments.

One person wrote in a beautiful statement about Marie Cavallo and I could not agree more. Marie has very much given and continues to give her heart and soul to the cause of brain-injured New Yorkers. It is true too that she is in a position where speaking what she really thinks is politically risky, and here is where, like me, she may want to do some reflection; is the “forced” silence worth the position? Only she can decide that. I love her no matter what she does, and I can say the same about Judy.

Another person wrote, in part, about the importance of establishing partnerships; they too are right. It is important (I am quite sure my correspondent knows this) that groups who form partnerships understand they are partnerships, meaning one group can’t simply say to another; you must accept everything about us as is, especially when some of the as is hinders or impedes equal rights for brain-injured New Yorkers.

Another person wrote in pointing out that BIANYS  is no longer the answering component for the complaint line, now the regional representatives for DOH will do that. Two things: this change does not change the fact complainants never get the results of their complaints and perhaps now BIANYS will be able to openly advocate that they do.

We are all works in progress – including me.

NYS DOH ends contract with Feeney

It seems the efforts of this pen, the Kahrmann Advocacy Coalition, and others have finally paid off. Sources say the NYS Department of Health has cancelled its contract with Timothy J. Feeney et al effective the end of this month.

This writer revealed in 2008 that Mr. Feeney  misrepresents his educational credentials. He claims to have a valid masters degree and PhD when he has neither. Over the past three years this writer along with other real advocates – not the lip-service advocates in the state who seek headlines based on words not actions – have worked hard to have Mr. Feeney removed from his post in the Statewide Neurobehavioral Project, a group that was affiliated with the state’s Traumatic Brain Injury Waiver. Sources say the DOH has terminated the contract in its entirety.

Those who know me well, I mean really know me well, know I take no pleasure in Mr. Feeney’s demise nor in the demise of the other staff that worked in the project. However, like all of us, they are accountable for their choices. I am, however, very glad that survivors of brain injuries on the TBI Waiver, their families, and the many truly good providers of waiver services will no longer have to deal with Mr. Feeney. Life with brain damage is tough enough, dealing with dishonest people at the same time you are trying to learn how to manage life makes it all the tougher.

I have little doubt Mr. Feeney will continue to misrepresent himself in any venue he can. Hopefully others will be pick up where the DOH  left off and require he be honest or remove him from the field.

The NYS DOH has very little to be proud of when it comes to its oversight of the TBI Waiver; however, it can be proud of the decision to end the contract.

A Short Story: The Heart of Sidney Chest

Sidney Chest sits erect in his custom made Ermenegildo Zegna suit made by Mr. Kelly at La Rukico Tailors, joking that the blue dress shirt he has on is his least favorite but it was the only clean one he had left in his lambskin overnight bag. He has, after all, stayed over an extra night in the city of Patch Falls to help guide his company’s handling of those Sidney Chest refers to as my TBI people. TBI meaning traumatic brain injury, injuries sustained from a blow to the head, falls, assaults, car accidents, bicycle accidents and so on. Sidney Chest owns and runs a company that provides supportive services, or so they are called, to men and women who live with brain injuries so they might continue to live in the community rather than in institutions. Their injuries have robbed them of their peoplehood in the eyes of many, including the hazel eyes of Sidney Chest, who feigns caring about those poor TBI people who are viewed by Chest and his ilk as a plethora of cottage industries – profit makers.

Leaning back in his leather desk chair, Sydney Chest makes a mental note to have the chair cleaned. It was given to him by his wife Alice on their fifth wedding anniversary. "So what is the issue here with Allen Small?"

"He’s not happy with his staff. Says they talk to him like he’s a child." These words come in bored tones from Sally Stipple, a rather rotund woman with two strands of thick black beads around her neck and matching earrings. Her lips are large, pasty and pointless, like two dollops of silly putty hastily applied. She wears no make-up save for bright red lipstick. She wears a nose ring. She is 44 years old, looks 60, is divorced, no children, and, is a former nursing administrator. She sees the TBI people for what she knows they were. Needy, often misguided beings who are, if not entirely absent any purpose in life, entirely absent any real future in life. These people, though they aren’t really people any more, at least not completely, are stuck in place, damn lucky to get the services they are getting, and would do themselves a bit of justice, yes they would, if they’d just learn to show a little gratitude. They are forever complaining they are being talked too like they are children when they ought to be glad people are talking to them at all.

Sally Stipple runs a tight ship and Sidney Chest likes her for it and will go on liking her for it as long as Sally Stipple’s dictatorial streak keeps the billing up to speed which keeps the money coming in. In Sydney Chest’s world, Sally Stipple is what health care is all about, at least the health care his company is about if he has anything to say about it thank you very much. the company he boisterously calls the best of its kind in Patch Falls and the surrounding area.

Sydney Chest keeps the stress on billing by crying poverty (he’s actually very wealthy) at all times. He knows it was important to instill in his employees the fear-producing belief that the company is always one billing cycle away from total collapse, that if it wasn’t for his willingness to infuse the company’s coffers with his own personal money and the money of his darling wife Alice for that matter, the entire operation would collapse into a pile of dust and be swept away by the day’s first breeze.

His feigned poverty  underscores the hideously misguided belief that his is a generous heart when he deigns to take a survivor of brain injury out for breakfast or lunch and feigns listening with genuine interest and concern, sending the survivor back into the day program that, like many other programs of its kind, proves there is such a thing as community-based warehousing. Sadly, if there is naiveté or perpetual hunger in the heart of the survivor, quite a few, not all mind you, find themselves blinded by the wondrous portions of food just consumed, thanks to the beneficent Mr. Chest, and  Mr. Chest’s willingness to even order him or her a coffee to go. They return to the confines of the day program and talk about how kind Mr. Chest is, not realizing, at least in the moment, that the heart of a cadaver has more warmth than the organ that beats greed in the bosom of Sydney Chest.