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WAMC: Brain Injury Association of New York Rallies at Capitol (w/ Audio)

By Elizabeth Hill, 3/21 (audio in link)

The Brain Injury Association of New York State held a rally at the state capitol in Albany Tuesday.

About 150 supporters of the Brain Injury Association of New York State gathered at the legislature for a day of action, visibility and advocacy. The organization says thousands of New Yorkers suffering from Traumatic Brain Injury are in need of vital services. Eileen Reardon is the group’s Executive Director:

“As we attend meetings, and speak with policymakers today we speak from the heart on the issues and make them recognize the needs of this community. Together we show strength, together we will make a difference, together we are the voice of brain injury,” said Reardon.

Advocates spoke out against Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo’s budget plan, which includes a proposal to raise the threshold of assessment that qualifies individuals for Medicaid Waiver programs. The Medicaid Waiver Programs allow states to treat certain Medicaid populations at home or in other community-based settings rather than in institutional or long-term care facilities like hospitals or nursing homes. Victoria Clingan, Director of Engagement and Advocacy for BIANYS (Bee-AN-US), says the changes just wouldn’t work.

“Our people are already having a challenge meeting a five just because the test doesn’t properly assess them. All of the people that you see here today might not have a physical disability, but might have issues with memory or with the way that they think, that makes them need some supports to stay independent in the community,” said Clingan.

AnneMarie Todd, who suffers from Traumatic Brain Injury, says the level change would be devastating.

“I’ve survived through four car crashes and all my injuries are cognitive related, it’s not physical. I’m a seven, I had mine in February, and if that were to happen I would lose everything. So, a rectification is desperately needed,” said Todd.

Executive Director Reardon says that at least a third of the people who are on the waiver would lose services.

Republican State Senator Kemp Hannon, of Nassau County, Democratic Assemblyman Richard Gottfried of Manhattan and Hudson Valley Assembly Democrat James Skoufis join the gathering. Assemblyman Skoufis said his support of the TBI community is unwavering and he will continue to advocate for them.

“Perhaps most importantly whether you cope with a brain injury or you are a family member of someone who deals with a brain injury, you deserve respect by New York state government. I believe firmly that government exists to help those who need help the most. If we are not helping you and your families we should not bother doing what we do each and every day,” said Skoufis.

With the state budget due April 1st, Governor Cuomo says he will be gathering with Senate and Assembly leaders to hash out the state’s spending plan.