Justice 1 NYS DOH 0

It took the combined efforts of the NYS Commission on Quality of Care, an RRDC (Regional Resource Development Center) with real principles, the Kahrmann Advocacy Coalition, and the threat of legal action to get the NYS Department of Health to drop its efforts to block this writer’s request for three-white noise machines needed to manage marked noise sensitivity secondary to my brain injury.

A complete recount of my efforts to get the white-noise machines and the DOH’s determination to prevent me from doing so can be read in a preceding blog post. Suffice it to say that a ruling resulting from a December 1, 2010 Medicaid Fair Hearing overturned the DOH’s denial of my white-noise machine request, telling them that they needed to consider more evidence documenting the need for the machines.

More evidence was provided and the Southern Tier Independence Center, the RRDC in my area,  sought to approve the request before the DOH’s Maribeth Gnozzio stepped in and blocked the approval. How do you spell retaliation? Try G-n-o-z-z-i-o. However, were Gnozzio the exception to the rule at DOH she’d be long gone, but she’s not, which tells us she is an example of what the rule is at the DOH, and those DOH employees who do care, are in the minority.

Once Gnozzio blocked the white-noise machine request a request for an expedited Medicaid Fair Hearing went into effect. Once that happened, and once, I am sure, Gnozzio and the DOH realized their actions would accurately be seen as retaliation, a knowing attempt to harm me, and a flat-out violation of the ADA, they backed off. Gnozzio and the DOH also realized they were dealing with an RRDC who truly does care and was not about to back off its principles for anyone.

If the DOH wants to reveal that Gnozzio is an exception to the DOH mindset or signal that it is committed to changing it’s mindset, I’ve got a two-word suggestion that would go a long way on both fronts: fire Gnozzio.

NY State DOH & Southern Tier Independence Center: a $1 million relationship

The Southern Tier Independence Center (STIC) out of Binghamton, New York landed three contracts with NY State’s Department of Health totaling more than $1 million in taxpayer dollars.  Two of the contracts run from January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2010 and one of the contracts runs from April 1, 2010 to December 31, 2010. One question, yet to be answered despite the question being sent directly to Mark Kissinger, the DOH’s deputy commissioner for the Office of Long Term Care, is why all these contracts are still active even though they appear to have expired. It is, after all, 2011.

Another question is this. How is it that STIC managed to land all three contracts? While the answer to this question may well be a perfectly reasonable one, the fact STIC and the DOH entered into one contract knowing full well that the work was going to be given to a company led by an individual both parties knew misrepresents his educational credentials to everyone can do nothing but cast a cloud of suspicion over all three contracts.

Here are the three programs covered by the three contracts (the program description is taken directly from the contract itself):

  • Money Follows the Person (MFP) Demonstration of & Outreach to Nursing Home Residents Contract
    • Contract runs from January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2010
    • Funding amount: $100,000
  • Statewide Neurobehavioral Resource Project (Work given to School and Community Resource Inc. headed by Timothy J.Feeney who misrepresents his credentials)
    • Contract runs from April 1, 2010 to December 31, 2010
    • Funding Amount: $300,000
  • Regional Resource Development Center for the NH Transition and Diversion & Individuals w/Traumatic Brain Injury Home and Community-Based Medicaid Waivers
    • Contract runs from January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2010
    • Funding Amount: $610,000

One has to wonder how many bid on all the above contracts and how as it STIC managed to land all three? Past emails to STIC Executive Director Maria Dibble have not been responded to and the current email to Kissinger has not received a response to date.


NY TBI Waiver: Not Always Health or Care

I’ve been living in a new county in New York for four months now and I am still waiting for the TBI Waiver’s RRDC (Regional Resource Development Center), the contract employee of the state’s Department of Health that represents the DOH and oversees those who provide waiver services and waiver service recipients, like myself, in a particular region, to approve my service plan.

Not a surprise, though it should be.

Now, to say the the state’s DOH has been anything but impressive in it’s management of the waiver of late is an understatement. Let’s add another fact to the mix. The RRDC in my area is STIC,  the Southern Tier Independence Center in Binghamton.  Have you read about them before in this blog? Of course you have. They’re the ones who hired Timothy J. Feeney of fictitious college degree fame to play a major role in STIC’s new contract for the Neurobehavioral Project linked to, wait for it, the TBI Waiver.  When STIC’s executive director, Maria Dibble, was notified that Feeney’s claim to have a valid masters and doctorate was bogus, it apparently didn’t matter.

Is it any wonder there is some inexplicable delay in signing my service plan? I am waiting for a discharge from the waiver notice any day now claiming that somehow the brain injury I live with has, what, gotten better? In truth, it debilitating impact on my life has increased dramatically. But I don’t expect that matters to some either.

As a side note, or perhaps not so side note, it is also worth noting that I’ve yet to receive a decision from my Fair Hearing held on December 1, 2010, a Fair Hearing in which we sought to reverse the DOH’s denial of my request for a life alert and white noise machines given the increase in sound sensitivity I live with. And hey, this month is an anniversary of sorts, given that it is now one year since we first asked for them.

Like I said, the TBI Waiver is not always healthcare because sometimes it lacks commitment to health and sure as hell lacks care.

Ethics Welcome (Needed!) in NY State

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s directive that his staff along with top officials undergo ethics training is a breath of fresh air. There is nothing like fresh air to displace the pollution of unethical behavior, the stench of the latter being no more pronounced than it is in the way the state’s department of health manages the Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Waiver.

I can’t imagine the  governor will be at pleased when he hears the DOH and their contract employees continue to present Timothy J. Feeney as being Dr. Feeney or Timothy J. Feeney PhD. despite the demand for ethics from the new administration. In fact, I suspect he will be angry. And, in all likelihood, not surprised. As Bloomberg news recently reported,  “New York’s legislature has fought off efforts to require disclosure of the amount and source of their outside income and be subject to an independent commission with the power to monitor and enforce ethics rules” so the unethical behavior coming out of the DOH is not new news.

Recently, Joan Barbieri, Long Island’s lead Regional Resource Development Specialist for the TBI Waiver sent out an email to waiver providers telling them at their  “February 16, 2011 Provider meeting Dr. Timothy Feeney Program Director from the Neurobehavioral Resource Project at Wildwood Institute will be in attendance and discussing the program." Not only is he not a doctor (the only valid college degree he does have is a bachelors) he is also no longer connected to Wildwood. I sent an email to the providers letting them know the information they were given was false. While providers need to be ethical, they bloody well deserve honesty and ethical behavior from the others.

Additional emails have also been sent to the DOH, Barbieri, and Maria Dibble, the executive director of the Southern Tier Independence Center (STIC). STIC subcontracts to Feeney knowing full well he lies about his credentials. No response from any of’m. Let me end this missive here.  Thought it might be nice to end without a surprise.

The Hottest Places in Hell

On the one hand you have New York State Department of Health officials who will proclaim their commitment to making sure brain injury survivors in New York receive the best services possible under the TBI Medicaid Waiver. But the DOH signs a contract with Southern Tier Independence Center in Binghamton knowing full well STIC will hand the work to a clinical predator like Tim Feeney who prances about proclaiming he has college degrees he doesn’t have.

Then you have STIC, the Southern Tier Independence Center and their executive director Maria Dibble who would no doubt proclaim their loyalty to people with disabilities, yet Dibble and STIC have no problem giving work to a man they know lies about his credentials to the very people STIC and Dibble claim to care about.

At least the DOH has enough respect for a consumer led advocacy coalition to sit down with us and while some of their position related to the Feeney debacle is, in a word, indefensible, there are other things the DOH is doing that are admirable. Not so STIC and Dibble and sure as hell not so Feeney, all of whom simply ignore requests for answers for the consumer led advocacy coalition.

I’m in the early strides of penning a book about my experience as a brain injury survivor as well as my experience working in the field. Feeney and his enablers are certainly great examples of yet another reality dramatically wrong with the health care system. Just as troubling are those who go along with the ruse. NYSARC again hiring Feeney for a presentation knowing damn well he is a fake.

Soon a round of interviews will begin, with elected officials, law enforcement officials, DOH officials and many more. Meanwhile, it appears time to do all I can to bring the media in on this. In addition to inflicting Feeney and his enablers on men and women (and for Feeney, children too) with disabilities, there is more than a quarter million in state dollars being paid to the contract that pays Feeney and his crew.

For any advocacy group to not take a public stand against this means, by default, they are standing for it.

As Dante Alighieri said, “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crises maintain their neutrality.”