Who Pressured NY DOH into Bringing Back a Clinical Predator?

Someone must have pressured the New York State Department of Health to enter into a contract that allows a clinical predator back into the lives of brain injury survivors, their families and those who provide services to them. Some political favor or debt has called in, someone with some pull who clearly cares absolutely nothing about brain injury survivors.

I make this observation because it is the only thing that makes sense. There are some truly good people working at the DOH who really do care about brain injury survivors. But who among them (or anyone for that matter) can say with a straight face that they are comfortable with the department’s entering into a contract that allows Timothy J. Feeney, who by all accounts is nothing but a full-blown narcissist, back into the lives of those of us living with brain injuries.

There are some good people at the DOH and I dare say many would be forced to bite deep into their tongues in order to get themselves to say, “I think it is fine that someone who lies about his credentials to everyone provides services related to the TBI Waiver.” Don’t forget, Feeney and his company are already an approved provider of waiver services which makes one wonder what will be done about the obvious conflict of interest now that the clinical predators are back as the “neurobehavioral project.”  But Feeney doesn’t stop there. Let’s not forget that only this week Feeney was up in Washington County’s Fort Ann School District working with disabled children, never mind that school officials know his credentials are bogus. So much for putting children first.

A DOH official who  I will not name said the DOH has been assured by Maria Dibble, the executive director of the Southern Tier Independence Center, the recipient of the more than $250,000 contract that will hand the work to Feeney, that the provisions of the contract will be carried out in the highest professional manner. As presented, Ms. Dibble’s reassurance would actually be funny were it not so morally and clinically troubling – not too mention absent any relationship to  reality. How on earth can you provide quality services when you know the person providing them is lying about their credentials?

An email asking Ms. Dibble to explain STIC’s support for Feeney has gone unanswered.

Back to the question of the day. Who is pulling the strings? Is it solely a coincidence that Patricia Greene Gumson, a former DOH employee and Feeney supporter used to work at STIC? Sources have made it clear that both Ms. Gumson and current DOH employee Bruce Rosen had the reality of Feeney’s invalid college degrees brought to their attention and they did nothing about it.  There is no doubt that Gumson and Rosen did some admirable things over the years, no doubt at all. But this truth does not spare them accountability for supporting a clinical predator who likes to call himself “the angel of death” and has been known to be a bully. I’ve heard him refer to himself like this and the late Dr. Mark Ylvisaker often referenced Feeney’s penchant for this macabre moniker.

But back to the question at hand. Who pulled the strings for Feeney? To where or to whom does the corruption thread lead? One possible clue would be to watch which provider Feeney buddies up with.

Anyway, the truth will out.

 

Where the Facts Lead

Advocacy is not easy.

As a human rights advocate you see the ability of human beings to dehumanize other human beings, often for financial game and, almost as often, so those doing the dehumanizing can feel powerful, though it takes no power to dehumanize someone, just an ability to be heartless. You see lives lost, figuratively and literally.

I hold fast to something Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said. “"The ultimate measure of a man  is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at a time of challenge and controversy. The true neighbor will risk his position and even his life for the welfare of others." Is is easy to hold fast in times of challenge and controversy?  No, of course not. It can be brutally hard, scary, painful, and, at times, deeply lonely. But I can live with all that. What I can’t live with, what is far more painful, is the task of staying silent when bigotry and discrimination is at work.

Perhaps one of the most grueling things for me is when I see other advocates set aside their advocacy when it is a friend or family member or business colleague or revenue source doing the dehumanizing. Staying silent, or turning a blind eye when people are being denied their rights, or are being misled, lied to, hurt, is not in my repertoire. In my more selfish moments, I wish it was, but it is not. It is painful when people you know stay silent when someone they happen to know is doing the dehumanizing, the discriminating. I’ve had some who I’ve admired and genuinely liked lash out at me when my advocacy efforts bump into members of their inner circle.

I can’t help where the facts lead.

Once, many years ago, I worked for a long-term healthcare facility in the Bronx. The company held a Christmas Party in a restaurant’s basement level banquet hall. To get to the hall you had to walk down a very long steep flight of stairs. There were no bathrooms on the same floor as the hall and, there was no elevator. This, of course, posed a problem for a good friend of mine who, like me, worked for this healthcare company and was a wheelchair user. Jim Cesario is about as dazzlingly good with a wheelchair as one can get, but still, rolling down a steep flight of stairs and then up again when you had to leave or, say, use the bathroom, would be rather difficult.

Anyway, once I’d learned of the set-up I announced I would not attend the party. Jim along with his wife and daughters were not going, for obvious reasons, and several staff members decided not to go in protest because of the sites inaccessibility. Marked as the ring leader, I was called into the administrator’s office where a few things were explained to me. Yes, they knew this was not fair to Mr. Cesario but after all he was the only wheelchair user on staff and they’d gotten a really good discount price for the hall. And secondly, didn’t I understand that my refusal to go was a blatant sign of disrespect for the company owner and the company as a whole? I said it didn’t make a difference if it was one wheelchair user or dozens, and as far as disrespecting the owner was concerned, perhaps the owner and all members of upper management ought to consider how they’d feel if they had to be carried up and down stairs – in front of their spouse, children and co-workers no less! – every time they needed to use the bathroom.

Needless to say, the party was held in the basement hall. I didn’t go. What’s worth noting is the party was thrown by a healthcare company that would tell the world it fully supported equal rights for wheelchair users, unless of course there was a discount to be had.

And then, in recent history, I uncover the fact that Tim Feeney was lying when he told – and continues to tell -  the world that he is Dr. Feeney or Tim Feeney PhD, when the only valid college degree he has is a bachelors. For fifteen years he was arguably the most powerful voice in the implementation of New York State’s Traumatic Brain Injury Waiver, a form of Medicaid reimbursement for survivors of brain injury living in the community. During that time Feeney would dictate policy and procedures to companies providing waiver services, inflict admission holds, direct that some survivors  be removed from the waiver or stop others from getting on the waiver.

Now you would think that when the truth was revealed, the advocacy community, not to mention the survivors, their families and providers would be glad. Most were. But some attacked me for bringing the truth into the light. Why? In some cases it was because Feeney was linked to people they liked and were friends with, namely former New York DOH employee Patricia Green Gumson and current DOH employee Bruce Rosen.  Both oversaw the waiver for many years and did many truly good things during that time. However, investigation of Feeney revealed there was ample reason to believe both both Gumson and Rosen knew about Feeney’s misrepresentation and covered for him.

I can’t help where the facts lead.

And now it again appears that Feeney may be given the same powerful position in the waiver even though the DOH and STIC (Southern Tier Independence Center) in Binghamton, the company likely to be awarded the contract with DOH that may lead to Feeney’s return, are fully aware of Feeney’s dishonesty. Needless to say I’ve already had people reach out to me telling me that STIC is a highly reputable center. They are right. It is. But even the best of us, myself included, make mistakes in judgment sometimes. Do we deserve to be villainized? No. Do we deserve to be held accountable? Yes.

Which is exactly what I am doing.

_______________________________

A NY State Department of Health Cover-up?

A September 16th letter from the New York State Department of Health might lead some to think the DOH has no problem awarding several million dollars to a neurobehavioral project headed by a man who continues to misrepresent his credentials to those he serves. Timothy J. Feeney continues to represent himself as  Dr. Timothy J. Feeney or Timothy J. Feeney PhD when he is no more a doctor than Felix the Cat is.

Feeney presents himself to brain injury survivors and their families as having a PhD and master’s degrees when he doesn’t. He did get bogus degrees from a diploma mill located in Hawaii and California in the 1990s before moving its operation to Norfolk Island off the coast of Australia in 1998. Greenwich University, not to be confused with the prestigious University of Greenwich in England, was a non-accredited diploma mill that graces numerous diploma mill lists on the net. It closed its doors in 2003.

Despite the fact Feeney himself says the DOH new all along about his degrees, he has, for nearly 15 years now,  headed up the Neurobehavioral Resource Project for New York State’s Traumatic Brain Injury Waiver. The NRB is arguably the most powerful influence over the TBI Waiver, a Medicaid program designed to provide services to brain injury survivors across the state.   While there is no argument that the TBI Waiver is needed because it affords many with brain injuries the chance to live in the community, there is also no argument that those who live with brain injuries, their loved ones, and the hard working companies that provide waiver services,  have a right to expect people to be who they say they are.

Letters to DOH employee Patricia Greene-Gumson along with a second letter to Deputy DOH Commissioner Mark Kissinger raising the issue of Feeney’s false claims and calling for an investigation not only into Feeney and his conduct but into who wrote the three contracts that don’t require the head of the project to have so much as a master’s degree. The two letters resulted in the September 16th one-page response from a Lydia Kosinski , Assistant Director for the Division of Home and Community Based Services. In her letter Kosinski says  the DOH was more concerned with work experience than college degrees when it chose the director of the NRP. While Feeney’s resume does not reveal much experience with brain injury in the first place, the question of his misrepresenting himself still lingers and was left untouched in the letter.

While I will try to hold to the belief that the DOH  is not the villain here, the Kosinski letter has begun to loosen my grasp.

One thing is for sure, if Feeney’s contract, which expires the 30th of this month, is renewed, there will be every reason to conclude that the DOH is more supportive of the disingenuous Feeney than it is of those us who live with brain injuries..

It is flat out tragic when you get the message that asking people to be who they say they are is asking too much.

 

Silence from New York’s DOH

A letter to a DOH official asking her to investigate how several million dollars of state taxpayer money has been paid to a project run by New York State contract employee Timothy J. Feeney who does not have the credentials he says he has has been met with silence.

A July 25 letter to Patricia Greene Gumson of the New York State Department Health has gotten no response. The letter, copied to others in and out of the DOH, asked Ms. Gumson to investigate how it was that Timothy J. Feeney received three five-year contracts with the DOH despite the fact he misrepresented his credentials. Was there a vetting process and, if so, what was it? It is critically important for the readers of this blog to avoid villainizing the DOH as a whole. There are quite a few honorable people working there and straightening things out while dealing with the ineffable web of bureaucracy is no easy task.

However, Mr. Feeney himself indicates that some in the DOH knew about the problems with his credentials. According to unsolicited e-mail this year to readers of my blog, some in the DOH knew Mr. Feeney did not have the college degrees he claims to have. In his e-mail, Mr. Feeney said, “The Department of Health, the state office responsible for the Neurobehavioral Resource Project, is well aware of my educational history, the source of my (college) degrees.”

For nearly 15 years now Mr. Feeney has headed up the Neurobehavioral Resource Project for New York State’s Traumatic Brain Injury Waiver. The Project is arguably the most powerful influence on the waiver across the state. There can be no argument  that the TBI Waiver is a blessing to the state and desperately needed as it affords many with brain injuries to live in the community. However, there can also be no argument that survivors of brain injury, their families and other loved ones, along with the hard working companies that provide waiver services across the state have a right to expect people to be who they say they are.

As readers of this blog already know, Mr. Feeney claims to have a PhD and Masters degree when he has neither one. The letter also asked Ms. Gumson to look into how it was that none of the three contracts that some might see as jerry-rigged didn’t require the person heading up the Neurobehavioral Project to even have a master’s degree.

In short, Mr. Feeney’s degrees were received from Greenwich University, a diploma mill located in Hawaii and California in the 1990s before moving its operation to Norfolk Island off the coast of Australia. Degrees from Greenwich have never been recognized as valid in the Australian mainland and have never been recognized as valid anywhere in the United States of America. Greenwich, not to be confused with the prestigious University of Greenwich in England, closed its doors in 2003.

Brain injury survivors, the families and other loved ones as well as waiver providers across the state deserve answers. Here are some but not all the questions that ought to be answered.

How productive has the Neurobehavioral Project been?

  • Are referrals to the project responded to, completed, and followed up in a timely manner?
  • How many admission holds were placed on Waiver Providers across the state at the direction of Mr. Feeney? 
  • How many survivors were tossed off the waiver by Mr. Feeney?
  • What has Mr. Feeney and the Project’s impact been on Medicaid dollars?
  • How many Medicaid dollars were spent based on the reasonable belief that Mr. Feeney was Dr. Feeney?
  • Would any Medicaid dollars been saved had Mr. Feeney not represented himself as Dr. Feeney?

Another letter to a DOH official way up the ladder is on its way and has been copied to a wide range of people. I have faith that the DOH will do the right thing. Mr. Feeney’s contract expires the 30th of this month. Were it to be renewed, or were some maneuver like awarding the contract to a company who would then hand leadership over to Mr. Feeney to happen, more folks would need to be taken to task.

It is hard enough living life with a brain injury, it is hard enough adjusting to the reality that a loved one has a brain injury, and it is no easy task providing quality services to those who live with a brain injury for providers who try to keep their companies afloat despite low reimbursement rates. To manage all these challenges only to find out one of the most influential entities in the state is not who they say they are is not only unjust, it’s immoral.