WNYT-TV: Brain Injury Patients Rally to Keep Vital Care

See the video here: WNYT News Channel 13

ALBANY – For the first time in its history, the Brain Injury Association of New York rallied at the State Capitol.

The gathering on Wednesday was a final push to convince lawmakers about the need to fund the specialized treatment this group argues, is so vital to their independence and recovery.

The fact that Laura Casellini is here to celebrate her 24th birthday is a milestone that wasn’t assured.

Five years ago the car she was riding in was slammed into by a drunk driver.

Still recovering from a traumatic brain injury, the East Greenbush woman credits the intensive and coordinated services she receives for her recovery.

“I have had a very good recovery,” she noted.

When asked if it would have been as good without the care, she replied, “It would not have been as good. I would have been stuck in a nursing home.”

In New York, services for brain injury patients like Casellini are provided through special waivers. It’s a system of payment and care the governor’s office wants to do away with, transitioning this population to managed care.

“140,000 New Yorkers and of them, 3,000 of them are on traumatic brain injury, TBI waiver,” explained Eileen Reardon, the executive director of the Brain Injury Association of New York State.

Fear about losing services and careful coordination of those services brought the Brain Injury Association of New York State, BIANYS, to the state Capitol for its first ever “Advocacy Day.”

They want to be sure their voices are heard in advance of the April 1 deadline for the state Health Department to release its transition plan.

They’re counting on support from leaders in the state Senate and Assembly.

“However the program is structured, whether it stays outside managed care or moves into it, that the unique, important elements of the TBI waiver are guaranteed in law and protected against tampering,” noted Democratic Assem. Richard Gottfried the Health Committee Chair.

Money to continue the services has been recommended by both the Assembly and Senate Health Committees.

However, anything can happen between now and when the governor presents his budget.

It’s still to be seen what the transition plan looks like when it’s released April 1.

NewsChannel 13’s Benita Zahn will keep you posted.