NY Department of Health Betrays Health Care Providers & Brain Injury Survivors

More than 60 people with disabilities will have their lives brutally disrupted and in many cases traumatized as a result of a New York Department of Health that would rather hide behind labels than respect the people it serves.

Sources say DOH Deputy Commissioner Mark Kissinger says agencies providing community support staff to more than 60 survivors of brain injuries will have to discharge their survivors to other agencies (against the wishes of the survivors themselves in many cases) because they are not Licensed Home Care Agencies. Never mind that a number of these agencies filed their applications as requested and they’ve yet to get a response because of a plodding bureaucracy they have no control over.

While Kissinger’s point sounds reasonable, it’s not. The facts reveal that reason – not to mention equal rights for people with disabilities – has nothing to do with it. Kissinger’s response to this is reportedly, Don’t you think these people should be with licensed home care agencies?  Sounds good, but his assertion is nothing more than a political shell game. He and the DOH know full well that these agencies have been providing effective care for years and the notion that survivors are somehow are risk is, in a good light, misinformed and, in a poor light, disingenuous.

Some background. In 2007 the DOH informed companies providing community support staff to people with brain injuries through the TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) Waiver – a form of Medicaid reimbursement – that they needed to become Licensed Home Care Agencies. Keep in mind that at the time, some of these companies had been effectively providing community support staff for more than a decade. The New York TBI Waiver began in 1995.  Nevertheless, the burdensome blanket of bureaucracy was draped over the providers and so many filed their applications, with, sources say, little if any guidance from the DOH.

Kissinger’s people didn’t bother to talk with any of the more than 60 people whose lives will be damaged by this. And the TBI Waiver, believe it or not, is supposed to be person centered, which means, in short, the person living with the brain injury is supposed to be in charge of their own life.

Sources say Kissinger said agencies with applications filed may still get approved to be Licensed Home Care Agencies and, if they do, their survivors can come back. It’s seems we survivors are absent our humanity in the eyes of the DOH. Just a bunch of inanimate objects to be moved about the landscape.

This blog would urge the survivors to ask for a fair hearing and it would also urge the providers to file suit against the DOH charging that this action is arbitrary and capricious and, if that move wouldn’t hold up, hold the DOH accountable for dropping the ball on it review of applications and hold them accountable.

And hey, here’s an idea, why doesn’t Kissinger himself meet with the more than 60 survivors. If you are going to work for a government agency that plans on pulling the rug out from under the lives of more than 60 people, why not meet them in person?

I am urging all interested parties to call the Brain Injury Association of NY State. As a former board member and a current member they are the state’s leading advocacy organization for brain injury survivors and a truly good group of people.  Their Family Help Line is (800) 228-8201 and their main line is (518) 459-7911. You can also e-mail them at info@bianys.org  While your at it, I would urge each of you to become a member if you are not one already.

Also, call Mark Kissinger’s office at 518-402-5673 and or e-mail him at mlk15@health.state.ny.us