Michael Kaplen needs to go

If I could flip a switch that would completely remove one person from the world of brain injury, Michael Kaplen would vanish.

Apparently, the fact his term on NY State’s Traumatic Brain Injury Services Coordinating Council ended in 2004, coupled with the fact elections appear to be way overdue for the position of council chair, a post he clings to like Linus clings to his blanket, means nothing. The agenda released for the TBISCC’s meeting on March 1 (see below) reveals Kaplen has no intention of addressing either of these issues. One  hopes council members and the New York State Department of Health will hold him accountable, even though doing so may result in a Kaplen hissy fit.

Living with a brain injury is a formidable challenge and then some. But we are not the only ones facing tough challenges.  The challenges the New York State Department of Health  faces in it relationship to services for New Yorkers with brain injuries are formidable to say the least. So too are the intensely formidable challenges the Brain Injury Association of NY State faces in its work. 

But here’s the difference. When I talk with BIANYS leaders like Judith Avner, the executive director, and Marie Cavallo, the president, there  are things we agree on and things we disagree on. What all three of us have in common is this; we all truly care. When I talk with Mark Kissinger, Deputy Commissioner for the DOH, and Mary Ann Anglin, a division director for the DOH, there are things we agree and disagree on. But again, what do we have in common? We all care.

I don’t believe for a millisecond that Michael Kaplen cares. I don’t think he cares about anything but Michael Kaplen. I can also tell you that if you ever want to speak with him and can’t find him, just take out a camera and he’ll appear before your eyes in a flash. One particular rather self-serving behavior of Kaplen’s provides, perhaps, a clue to what he is all about. Past BIANYS board members as well as this writer remember times at board meetings that he would go around the table and place a business card – from his law firm – at each person’s place at the table. One year at the NYS DOH’s Best Practice Conference, at a time when Kaplen was the BIANYS president, a couple of us noticed that he was going around the entire room, which seated 1,000 people if not more, placing business cards from his law firm on each and every table. To this day he may not know that I went around the room and, with the help of an ally, removed nearly all the cards.

It will surprise few, if any, that when the BIANYS board voted on a well-designed ethics policy, every board member voted in favor, except for Kaplen. He chose to abstain.

In my opinion, Kaplen is a bully. I have seen him threaten to embarrass every member of the BIANYS board of directors because there were some who had an opinion that differed from his. In fact, his behavior was so nasty,  the board had to break so some members could gather themselves. One board member, a woman with a brain injury who was at her first meeting,  was so frightened by Kaplen’s behavior she was shaking.

In one of the first TBISCC meetings I attended I watched an exchange between Kaplen and Mary Ann Anglin. Ms. Anglin was asking a series of perfectly reasonable questions. Kaplen could not have been more unpleasant or acted more put out if he’d gone to Actor’s Studio  to master the display of both conditions.

At another TBISCC meeting an American Veteran in attendance who lives with a brain injury asked a question of a presenter. The veteran was immediately pulled up short by Kaplen who sternly explained that now was not the time for him to be asking questions. When, moments later, two council members offered to give their time to the veteran so he could voice his question, Kaplen yelled at them. Like I said, he’s a bully, and like most bullies, he’s a wimp.

Kaplen has also taken his runs at me. A few years back he represented me (with significant help from another attorney behind the scenes) in a case against what was then called the NY State Crime Victims Board. On one occasion I left him a voice mail with some questions. He then left me a voice mail angrily telling me not to ask him stupid questions (this from a man whose law firm claims to act with compassion towards people with brain injuries). Then, when the judge had the case under review, I left him a message telling him that whatever the judge decided, we needed to talk to determine how best to roll out our response to the media.

Can you guess how I found out the judge ruled in our favor? A reporter called me to ask me my response to the ruling. Who told the reporter? Right. Kaplen. And so, I decided to have some fun. I left Kaplen a voice mail. In it I told him that he should be grateful that it was not 25 years earlier because had he done this back then I simply would’ve taken him outside and slapped the sh*t out of him. He later whined that I’d threatened him. No, I explained, I did not threaten you. I simply explained what would’ve happened to you 25 years ago, so, be happy; you’re a lucky man.

The world of brain injury in New York is not lucky to have Michael Kaplen in their midst. It is my hope the council will stand up to his bullying and cut him loose.  If they do, then we can all be lucky together. And then, we can all focus on the difficult challenge of supporting each and every New Yorker with a brain injury in their just quest to reach their maximum level of independence.

****

As promised:

TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY SERVICES COORDINATING COUNCIL

NYS Department of Health

875 Central Avenue, Albany, New York

(Main Conference Room)

Thursday, March 1, 2012

10:30 AM – 3:30 PM

AGENDA

10:30am – 10:45am Welcome

Introduction of New Member

Review and Approval of Minutes from

September 12, 2011 Meeting

10:45am – 12:00pm New York State Five Year TBI Action Plan

Carla Williams, Deputy Director, Division of Long Term Care, NYSDOH

12:00pm – 1:15pm LUNCH (Members on their own)

1:15pm – 2:00pm Impact of MRT proposals on TBI and NHTD waivers:

Medicaid Managed Care and Repatriation of individuals served out of NYS

Jason Helgerson, Deputy Commissioner, Office of Health Insurance Programs and NYSDOH Medicaid Director

2:00pm – 2:30pm Coordinated Medicaid Managed Care Program for Individuals with TBI

Joseph Vollaro, PhD.

2:30pm – 3:00pm Subcommittee reports

· Healthcare Reform/Non-Waiver Service Needs

· Public Awareness/ Injury Prevention and Information Dissemination

3:00pm – 3:30pm Public Comment/Summary/Next Steps/Adjournment

Actions Speak Louder than… (you know the rest)

Last year I had a face to face meeting with three officials from the New York State Department of Health: Mark Kissinger, deputy commissioner, Mary Ann Anglin, Division Director, and Carla Williams,  a deputy director and tough-guy wannabe.

Our conversation at the time, one the three officials insisted not be recorded, probably because Williams knew she was going to launch into what can best be described as laughable attempt to be intimidating, revolved around the state’s decision to sign a contract that would allow Timothy J. Feeney back into the state’s TBI waiver knowing full well he misrepresents his credentials. The contract was signed with STIC (Southern Tier Independence Center) in Binghamton. “STIC’s the one that’s on the hook” said Williams, mustering up a dramatically poor imitation of a snarling delivery. “If they don’t live up to the contract it’s on them.”

I left the meeting thinking there may have been at least some sincerity in their claim that survivors would be treated well and with respect and my oh my how all three said they cared so much. I was wrong, though, even now, I think Anglin might. I say I was wrong because Feeney while operating under the contract and being paid by your tax dollars continues to misrepresent his credentials and even though a complaint was filed with the DOH, they have not responded.  Why? They simply don’t care.

Don’t believe me? Ask them. Write to Kissinger at mlk15@health.state.ny.us or Anglin at Maa05@health.state.ny.us or Williams at Crw03@health.state.ny.us

If you want some real fun, write to the DOH’s Beth Gnozzio who issued a directive in a phone conference that TBI Waiver staff are not allowed to appear in support of their clients in Medicaid Fair Hearings. As her why she and the DOH refuse to put this directive in writing? Gnozzio can be reached at mjg07@health.state.ny.us

And copy me if you’d like. peterkahrmann@gmail.com

NY State DOH: Anything but Open

If change under new Governor Andrew Cuomo includes a new spirit of ethics and openness, the message has yet to reach the state’s department of health.

As this blog noted in a January 11 post, the DOH’s response to a FOIL (freedom of information law) request for any and all DOH policies and procedures and emails regarding Medicaid Fair Hearings resulted in their sending only a slim training binder for fair hearing officers. If this is an honest and comprehensive response, it means the DOH has no fair hearing polices and procedures and no DOH employee has ever ever ever sent email discussing referencing fair hearings in any way. So, are we looking at incompetence, dishonesty, or a healthy dose of both?

Now, today, I received a letter from Robert “Jake” LoCicero, an attorney in the state’s Records Access Office. I’d sent in a FOIL request seeking the following linked to DOH officials Mary Ann Anglin and Maribeth Gnozzio.

– Any and all emails or other written forms of communication authored by Maribeth Gnozzio to any and all RRDCs in the state from January 2009 to the date of this request.
– Any and all emails or other written forms of communication authored by Mary Ann Anglin that were sent to or copied to Maribeth Gnozzio.

In today’s letter LoCicero let me know efforts are underway to gather the information but  they may want to charge me “an amount equal to the hourly salary attributed to the lowest paid agency employee who has the necessary skill required to prepare a copy of the requested record.” I already called the NY State Committee on Open Government. Over the years I’ve filed dozens of FOIL requests and the law says you can be charged no more than 25 cents a page.

Anyway, nice to know our department of health has thus far, despite our new governor, found a way to continue its secretive, insular, non-cooperative patterns of behavior.

NY’s TBI Waiver: A New Beginning? Maybe

In an intense forthright discussion with me today, three New York State Department officials, all  part of an impressive new-leadership for the state’s TBI Waiver, made it clear that Timothy J. Feeney will not have the contractual authority he did in the past nor the ability to exceed any contractual authority as survivors (including this writer), family members and providers witnessed in the past.

It was also made clear that the “training” provided by Feeney’s company will not be the only option for providers when it comes to being approved for being PBIS (Behavioral) Directors.

Equally important to understand is that the state’s contract is with the Southern Tier Independence Center (STIC) in Binghamton, not Feeney’s company, and STIC is on the hook to make sure the neurobehavioral contract’s deliverables are provided as called for in the contract. All indications are STIC will be giving the work to Feeney and his people.

I like, and was genuinely impressed, with the three folks I met with today: Deputy Commissioner Mark Kissinger, Carla Williams, Deputy Director Office of Long Term Care and Mary Ann Anglin, Director of the Division of Home & Community Based Care Services. Kissinger is wonderfully straight forward and direct, Ms. Williams, who will never be accused of being shy or understated, is refreshingly intense and forceful, and Ms. Anglin is  a marvelously clear and creative thinker. All three made their loyalty to the best possible waiver clear to me, and I have no reason to disbelieve them. If I did (or ever do), I’ll tell you.

It is important to note too that these three were not at the helm back in the days when Feeney was able to run roughshod over people and providers, inflicting admission holds at will and, as many of us know, acting on his penchant for reminding providers that if they didn’t do what he told them to do, he’d shut off their admissions straight away. Feeney and his crew would at times direct who should be fired and who should or should not be promoted. I can even recall instances where he directed that cognitive therapy is not an option because it doesn’t work; about as absurd a claim as one can make in the world of brain injury. Kind of like telling someone summiting Everest that oxygen is irrelevant.

I was also reassured that survivors, families and providers should not hesitate to file complaints if they have them. I explained that in the past there was a reality-based fear in filing complaints against Feeney and his crew because the response was often punitive. Fear can be a helluva manager. I was assured in no uncertain terms that those days are in the past.

And so we will see. I can tell you that if you have complaints or concerns of any kind, you can file them with the Kahrmann Advocacy Coalition (kahrma1@gmail.com) as well as with the Brain Injury Association of New York State.