Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Ohio Wages War Against Disabled Citizens and Their Caregivers (part three)

Dear Representative Robert Sprague,

My name is Peggy Cooley. 

I ADAMANTLY oppose the elimination of Independent Providers (IPs).

Peggy & her daughter, Kit
I am the mother and legal guardian of my daughter, Kit, who lives with multiple special needs: Cerebral Palsy ( spastic quadriplegia, cortical blindness and a seizure disorder. Kit is on a DODD waiver and continues to live with me and her father in our home. She is a beautiful "social butterfly" and she shares her joy for life with everyone she encounters. She is currently 23 years old and participates in an active and vital adult activity day program, five days a week, along with 20 other "friends".

Kit feels safe, loved, secure and respected by her five Independent Providers, most of whom have been her caregivers for over a DECADE. These caregivers are like family to us. We love, respect and trust them to care for our child. These wonderful caregivers take Kit out in the community; including meals out at restaurants, trips to the shopping malls, out for walks in the parks, etc. Kit is also friends with other members of her caregivers families. Kit has benefitted in every aspect of her life because these caregivers are a big part of her life. I can't imagine ever losing them or of ever losing the FREEDOM TO CHOSE who works with Kit in our own home.

I can never go back to using an agency and none of Kit's providers will ever go back to working for an agency. Her caregivers worked for years at an agency for the sole purpose of providing care for Kit. I recruited, trained ( a 6 to 8 week process), and did all of the scheduling of hours. They NEVER worked for any other agency client the whole time that they were with the agency. At some point the agency cut their already low wages, became ridiculously intrusive in our home and ignored my requests that they stop taking Kit's vital signs, as there was no order from her doctor that this was necessary. The agency nurses would end up scaring Kit and then she would cry and end up biting her wrists out of frustration. I was told, incorrectly, by the agency that I would lose the ability to bill hours for the aides if I did not allow them to take vital signs. It got to be so stressful for me  that all of our caregivers agreed to go through the process of becoming Independent Providers to reduce the stress I was feeling. I gave the agency notice that this was happening and the agency (Maxim Health Care) tried to extort $5000 dollars from each of them for allegedly being in violation of a "non-solicitation agreement. My husband made a few phone calls and within 72 hours an attorney from a law firm, hired by Maxim, contacted us and his first sentence was " tell us what Maxim needs to do to make this go away."

The white paper written by the Ohio Health Transformation department  was the most disturbing document I have ever read. It was a blatant attack on the 13,000 Independent Providers and came as a total shock to me. IT SCARED ME !!!!!  I was outraged by the contents of this document and I was INSULTED that Governor Kasich and Mr. Moody could ever assume that I would be so naive and uniformed not to see through their scam.!!  This is disgusting and outrageous behavior by the Kasich administration, PLEASE stop this madness !!!  

Thank you for the opportunity to share my feelings on this issue. I pray that you and the other members on the Human Services Committee will do the right and ethical thing and have the proposal to eliminate Independent Providers removed from the budget.

Respectfully submitted,

Peggy Cooley

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Ohio Wages War Against Disabled Citizens and Their Caregivers (part two)

Dear House Finance Subcommittee on Health and Human Services,

Sisters
I am providing you with written testimony today strongly opposing Governor Kasich’s Budget Proposal for 2016-2017 to phase out Ohio’s certified Medicaid Independent Providers for several reasons. I would like to explain to you how this proposal to phase out Ohio’s Certified Medicaid Independent Providers will negatively impact myself, my family, our livelihood, our future, my developmentally disabled sister, her rights, her freedoms, her protections, her life, her future, and most importantly her health, her safety, and her happiness!

My sister is 45 years old and is developmentally disabled, she has been a recipient of the IO Waiver for 20+ years. She has had to endure a lot of pain, abuse, neglect, and inappropriate care throughout her years of being involved in Ohio’s Developmental Disabilities (DD) system, mostly at the hands of Agency Providers. We have spent those same 20+ years constantly fighting for my sister, her rights, her freedoms, her protections, her health and safety, her happiness, her future, and many times her life!

Aside from fighting a broken DD system, we have had to fight to make sure my sister received the proper medical care she deserved and required in order to stay alive. We have been by my sister’s side every single step of the way fighting for and caring for her like nobody else would ever consider doing!!!

-       When my sister had life-saving brain surgery not a single employee, house manager, or administrative staff of the agency provider came to visit my sister during her 2 month recovery process! We were there every single day, sometimes 2-3 times per day!!!
My sister has resided in and received care from many different Agency Providers/ Group Homes all of which have failed to care for her properly! There have been too many times and examples to list relating to the abuse, neglect, mistreatment, and negligent care she has received. So I will go on to explain our latest experience with the last Agency Provider she received inappropriate care from.

She spent months with this particular Agency Provider being medically neglected on a daily basis.

-       There were repeated med errors, including medications not available (as well as missing) and/or she wasn’t given her meds, as well as staff not being trained or certified to pass meds so she was forced to go without them because there was no staff available that could give her the meds she is required to take.

-       Numerous times where she was not fed for 20+ hours at a time, even though the meds she takes require her to eat on a consistently normal basis.
-       She was not taken to nor were many of her needed medical appointments scheduled, including extremely important medical issues that were repeatedly ignored (ex: biopsies for breast cancer, and brain surgery rehab).

As a family we fought the Agency Provider to provide appropriate medical care to my sister, and filed complaint after complaint after complaint with the County and State, which the County and State failed to “substantiate”, and failed to protect her in any manner at all.
-       Then as a retaliatory result of our fighting for my sister the Agency then limited/restricted our (family and guardian) communication with ALL agency staff, the house manager, and the manager on call, and required that we only be allowed to communicate with the Agency’s Director and her administrative staff, even in the event of an emergency. Those actions jeopardized my sister’s health and safety even more so than the Agency’s previous actions.
In addition to the above issues, my sister also endured months of repeated verbal and emotional abuse by the Agency Provider staff and house manager. We would remove her from the home at those times, and file MUI reports with the County Board, all of which were ignored and found to be “unsubstantiated allegations” each and every time we filed a complaint.
-       After the same Agency Provider had 3 unnecessary and inexcusable deaths of developmentally disabled individuals within their homes/ care in less than a 5 month time frame, the State finally revoked the Agency’s certification based on identical allegations (from other families) of medical neglect, verbal abuse, improper investigations/ interviews, destruction/ shredding of documentation/ evidence (by the Director of Nursing), and wrongful deaths, which were finally “substantiated” by the State. The State reinstated the Agency’s certification after 4 months once the Agency simply submitted a plan of correction.

-       This evidence I can point to as the exact reason why the State claims that abuse and fraud is more prevelant among Independent Providers. Unfortunately the State fails to even investigate allegations of abuse, neglect, or any wrongdoing of Agency Providers unless they are forced to do so after multiple deaths at the hands of that provider! Please review the following News Investigation which has documented the State’s neglect, this article also addresses the abuse and neglect of the Agency Provider with whom my sister received her care from. http://www.newsnet5.com/news/local-news/investigations/newschannel5-investigates-neglect-and-abuse-of-ohios-disabled-slips-under-the-radar

As a result of the Agency’s failure to appropriately care for my sister, and the County and State’s failure to protect my sister, we removed my sister from that Agency provider on an emergency basis. Immediately I became a certified Medicaid Independent Provider through the State in order to protect my sister from neglectful and abusive Agency Providers, and the State and County who failed to protect her adequately in any manner at all.

We fought so hard to give my sister the life she deserves, the opportunity to be treated fairly, to be protected, and to be loved. I became my sister’s Independent Provider because of these above reasons. Because not another single human being, agency provider, county board, or entire DD system would fight as hard as we have to make sure she is taken care of appropriately, and has the opportunity to live the life she so rightly deserves!

Governor Kasich’s proposal to phase out Independent Providers in the State of Ohio will take away so many of the things we have fought so hard for my sister for over the last 20+ years. This proposal will force her to have to endure many more years of medical neglect, abuse, improper care, lack of care or concern, and possibly even death by being imprisoned is a system who does not care enough to fight for my sister or any of the other developmentally disabled individuals this system was meant to care for, provide for, and protect!

In addition to my concerns over my sister and her future, this proposal will eliminate the “jobs” of 13,000 up to 23,000 (DODD website list 23,804 certified IP’s as of 3/9/15) Certified Independent Providers (IP’s) in the State of Ohio.
-       That means that these providers will be forced to work for Agencies that they have worked so hard to get away from for many reasons.
o    Mostly due to the fact that Agencies don’t care about the people they are supposed to be serving, nor do they care about their employees.
o   Agencies fail to offer appropriate, adequate, or thorough training, and insist on paying the barest minimum wage possible and then offer employees the least amount of hours available in order to avoid having to pay overtime.

o   That means that a hard working provider who works for an agency would receive $15,500 (gross income) per year.
-  This equation clearly demonstrates that regardless if these IP’s are forced to work for agencies, or if they become unemployed they will ALL qualify for (and require) some form of government assistance in terms of Food, Medical, or Cash assistance in order to help support their own families. Families, meaning it will not only be the providers who qualify for and seek welfare assistance but it will be their entire family that will now be forced to receive government assistance in order to live and survive!

On top of those facts, 16,000+ DD individuals will be robbed of their supposed rights and will now be forced to receive their care through Agency Providers if they could even find an agency that is able to provide services for them.
-       Ohio Department of Developmental Disabilities provider search website lists 12,387 Agency Providers currently as being certified in the State of Ohio.

o   What kind of mathematical equation demonstrates that these Agency Providers could possibly support the service needs and requirements of the 16,000+ developmentally disabled individuals who will no longer be receiving their services from Independent Providers once they are phased out of the system?
o    How could these Agency Providers ever offer the additional 41,260 DD individuals who are placed on Ohio’s waiting lists for waiver services any type of care or support in the future? This type of change or transformation to Ohio’s DD system will make the already broken system crumble and fail.

It is a fact that the real issues behind the Governor’s proposal to eliminate Independent Provider’s (IP) and to move to an Agency-Only service model is strictly based on new federal labor laws, which became effective January 2015.

-       These laws would require the State or the County to now be considered the “EMPLOYER” of the IP, which would force the State/ County to have to pay minimum wage and overtime to ALL IP’s in the State of Ohio.

-       In order to avoid those responsibilities the Governor’s proposal would create a loophole for the State by passing those strict FLSA law requirements onto Agency Providers and/ or self-directed waiver recipients and their families by making those individuals become the “EMPLOYER OF RECORD”.

-       By forcing the waiver recipient/ family of a self-directed waiver to become the “Employer of Record” in order to maintain their Free Choice of Independent Provider this means that the waiver recipient/ family would now be responsible for adhering to strict FLSA laws, and inherit the responsibility of paying minimum wage and overtime requirements, not to mention the IRS requirements of paying taxes that they must comply with also.

o    This is extremely dangerous territory for DD individuals/ families who are unaware of the actual ramifications, because there is a high probability that those individuals will end up facing severe and disastrous consequences as a result.
o   In addition, when the State caps the funding of these individuals at $40,000 per year (which is the max allowed for the SELF Waiver), and the individual requires an exceeding amount of care or even 24/7/365 care, the individual or family as the “Employer” is then going to be responsible for paying anything over that cap in order to comply with the minimum wage and overtime requirements of the federal labor laws. How will they truly be able to pay for the care they require and need?

The State has neglected to be honest, open, or transparent in any way at all regarding this proposal. The State has blamed Independent Providers as being the problem, pointing to us as fraudulent and abusive criminals as their reason to eliminate us as Medicaid Providers.
-       Independent Provider’s, waiver recipients, and families came together to inform each other of this proposal (because the State failed to inform us, or include us), and to work with several organizations in order to raise awareness regarding this proposal, and to share resources in order to speak up and have a voice that would be heard in which we strongly oppose the elimination of Ohio’s Independent Providers. Below are a few resources where you can hear our voices, our concerns, and get to know the real people that will be affected by this proposal.


-       After we, as an extremely concerned community, all united and came together to oppose this proposal, the truth came to light, and the real, honest, and transparent reasons behind this proposal were exposed. Here are portions of a news article that was published recently which revealed the truth surrounding this proposal. http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2015/03/15/state-liability-drives-plan-to-phase-out-independents.html

o   But now, with angry families and consumer advocates questioning that rationale, a top administration official acknowledged on Friday that communication missteps were made. The state's potential liability for independent home-care workers' pay and benefits under new federal labor rules figured just as prominently as fraud in the thinking behind the plan.
o   "We got them to admit that they rolled it out incorrectly," said Gary Tonks, executive director of the ARC of Ohio. "They said the reason was fraud. The real reason is about the Fair Labor Standards Act."
o   Ohioans deserve a "forthright" discussion of the budget proposal, Tonks said. His organization represents people with developmental and intellectual disabilities, many of whom say they receive better, more-reliable care from independent providers than through home health agencies.
o   "We understand the wage issues," Tonks said. "But work with us. Most of our families who have chosen independent providers chose them because of a bad experience with an agency."
o   Administration officials wrongly used language that seemed to pit home-care agencies against independent providers, said Greg Moody, director of Kasich's Office of Health Transformation."That was not really what we're doing, and it was our mistake in how we talked about it," he said. He acknowledged that the state is responding to a new federal labor rule that says home-care workers are entitled to minimum wage, overtime and travel reimbursement.
o   And, according to the Department of Labor's guidance for implementing the rule, states could be considered a joint employer of independent home-care workers and could be responsible for that additional compensation and, possibly, benefits.  Moody said the state has not performed an analysis to determine the size of that potential liability under the new rule, which the home-care industry is fighting in court.
o   Michael Kirkman, executive director of Disability Rights Ohio, said the administration created an environment of distrust and apprehension that was unnecessary by not discussing the plan before including it in the budget.
§  "The department miscalculated the depth of feeling about this and used a justification that was superficial at best, when in fact there are much more complex issues that are really driving the conversation," Kirkman said.
§  "We've not had experience with independent providers committing fraud on the clients we've worked with and represented."  Ohio doesn't want to be in the business of employing home-care workers.
o   But, Moody said, the state wants to create more ways for consumers to be able to choose the people who care for them, including, in some cases, family members.
o   "Parents are passionate about this issue," said Adam Herman, a spokesman for the Ohio Association of County Boards of Developmental Disabilities. "Some of their comments were heartbreaking when we read them. There's a lot of fear out there."
o   The association hasn't yet taken a position on the proposal, but it is collecting feedback from families, independent providers, agencies and others. Of more than 1,000 surveys completed by Feb. 20, respondents were overwhelmingly against the phaseout, Herman said.

I beg you to stop and understand ALL of the actual facts surrounding this proposal which will so greatly impact Ohio’s DD population in such a negative and devastating manner. I beg you to understand where the true problems of fraud and abuse lie within this system, and to fully understand that the majority of Independent Providers do not work for Agency Providers because of the facts that those Agency’s do not care enough about these individuals to actually fight for them, their rights, their freedoms, their protections, their health and safety, their happiness or their lives, instead these DD individuals are just another dollar to these Agencies.
I beg you to take your time to sit down with the Independent Providers to listen to their stories of why they became Independent Providers, and why they do not work for Agency Providers. I beg you to sit down with the developmentally disabled individuals and their families to listen to why they chose to have Independent Providers over Agency Providers, to listen to the stories of neglect, abuse, and horrors that they have been forced to experience in the hands of Agency Providers. I beg you to fully understand the entire DD system, to understand where the abuse and the fraud and the neglect really exists before making a decision that will impact thousands upon thousands of developmentally disabled individuals lives, their families, and their independent providers before deciding whether or not to agree to phase out those independent providers who care so deeply about the individuals that they serve, and that they are willing to fight so hard for!!! I beg you to fully understand the rights that the DD individuals (and community) has fought so hard to earn for these individuals, which they will only be robbed of if this proposal is approved.

I thank you kindly for taking my testimony into consideration, and listening to the voices of the people who were not included by the State in the discussion(s) relating to this proposal! Again I ask you not to approve this proposal to eliminate Ohio’s Independent Providers.

Sincerely,

Andreah Forbes

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Ohio Wages War Against Disabled Citizens and Their Caregivers (part one)

Dear Readers,

Since the recent publication of an article I wrote, regarding Ohio Governor John Kasich's proposal to phase out Independent Providers, I have received a flood of emails. These emails are from Caregivers (IP's), people with disabilities, and concerned family members. All of them describe in horrific detail, how the Governor's proposal threatens their sense of safety and peace of mind. 

With these folk's permission, I'm going to boost their signal and publish their stories in this series entitled "Ohio Wages War Against Disabled Citizens and Their Caregivers." Please read what these people have to say, share their stories, and get involved!

Thank you,
Jane Hash aka The Gimp Avenger!


Maria Matzik






My name is Maria Matzik and I am 44 years old. I am a participant of the MyCare Ohio Dual Eligible demonstration program and I am enrolled in Molina's Managed Care Plan. I have used the Independent Provider Type since 1999. I was one of the individuals who advocated for this option back in the mid 90s after going to Washington DC and speaking with many senators and representatives. This was a result of Ohio’s Job and Family Services threatened to throw me in a nursing home on the day of my graduation because the State did not offer the coverage that I needed to “assure my health and safety”.

I have Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type II, have a tracheostomy, depend on a ventilator for breathing, and operate a motorized reclining wheelchair. I have a job as a HOME Choice Transition Coordinator and a Team Supervisor. I own my home and have a vehicle that I rely on my Independent Providers to drive. I have no family in Ohio.

I had just completed a 4 year college degree at Wright State University in 1995 where I juggled a full class schedule, student attendants (who were non-licensed individuals and were phenomenal) and agency nurses (the agencies were my nightmare). I was looking forward to graduation and beginning a new life here (I am from Pennsylvania and came here for school). Ohio decided that since I did not have 2 hours a day covered that I was not safe and the best place for me, if I decided to stay and not return to Pennsylvania, was a nursing home.

One agency, so I thought, was my savior. This agency agreed to cover me and “eat” the 2 hours. I later found out that 2 nurses working for me through this agency agreed to take a significant pay cut and that is why the agency agreed to “save me”. Other than a few nurses who left the agency after I did and become IPs and worked for me directly, the agency coverage was horrible and the so called “licensed professionals” were incompetent and anything but professional.

I had an agency nurse who could not get the concept that when you removed my ventilator tube from my tracheostomy to suction me that you had to put the tube back on after so that I could breath. Thankfully I was at work so a co-worker / informal assistant helped. The nurse was not concerned at all. When I reported this to the agency and REQUESTED that nothing be done until a new nurse was trained and showed reliability they ignored that and pulled her for my “safey”. Sounds like the right thing to do right? They left me uncovered and reminded me that I should have a back-up plan, they put her on another case with a “child” on a ventilator and my IPs covered as much as they could without pay because they knew that it would be a nightmare to get extra hours approved because the Case Managers don’t do their jobs. Just one of millions of stories.

So, when throwing around the term “Medicaid Fraud” maybe someone could take a look at how many cases the provider actually worked, but the Case Manager did not authorize the hours in writing. IPs are the ONLY providers who will NOT leave us uncovered. Agencies WILL ONLY do what they are being paid for. And the State crucifies the IPs for “ASSURING” our health and safety. Ironic or idiotic?!

That said, information gathered from the Attorney General’s office reflects the following data:

Office of Health Transformation states in its “Reform Home Care Payments” report that:

“From 2010-2014, 479 home care providers were criminally convicted, and Independent Providers accounted for 306 (~64 percent) of those convictions.”

This fails to acknowledge the dollar amounts associated with convictions and recovery of:
• IP Fraud: $ 5.9 million
• Agency Fraud: $ 5.9 million
• Agency Employee Fraud: $ 2.6 million
This brings the total dollar fraud committed by Home Health Agencies and/or their employees to $8.5M, 144% of IP fraud.

According to a Columbus Dispatch article Houston, Dallas, Detroit, Miami and Chicago Home Health Care has become so rife with fraud that federal officials recently issued a moratorium on any new agencies in those cities from billing the government for care, an anti-fraud tool that Congress authorized through the Affordable Care Act.

The Dispatch found that the Columbus metro area has more Medicare-certified home health-care agencies per person than any of those five fraud-plagued metro areas.

The Columbus area has not been placed under a moratorium, yet. If it is and there is no longer an IP program, what then?

Director Greg Moody states that after 2016 no one will be able to enter the Independent Provider pool. My question is: For individuals who choose the Employer of Record Option (which by the way Molina and most of the MyCare Ohio Plans has no idea what this is and how to go about implementing it) how will we be able to find providers? Are we just stuck with the same individuals who are currently IPs? What happens when they can no longer do this work – a job which they are already not compensated well enough for? What if we find other individuals, who are not "enrolled" IPs who want to work for us?

I am asking that under HB 64 there must be provisions implemented that will provide for a continually growing pool of Independent Providers, so that people who choose to ‘Self-Direct” in MyCare Ohio and other waivers can find Independent Providers. In the MyCare Ohio program individuals have a right to choose an Independent Provider. During the planning and implementation of the MyCare Ohio program we were told that Independent Providers would NOT go away!

The Office of Health Transformation’s “Prioritize Home and Community Based Services” initiative discusses in the HCBS transition plan to comply with new federal regulations:
“all HCBS settings must be integrated in and support full access to the Rebalance Long Term Services and Supports greater community; be selected by the individual from among setting options; ensure individual rights of privacy, dignity and respect, and freedom from coercion and restraint; optimize autonomy and independence in making life choices; and facilitate choice regarding services and who provides them.”
CMS, in their HCBS Fact Sheet dated January 10, 2014 present the following on Person-Centered Planning:
“This planning process, and the resulting person-centered service plan, will assist the individual in achieving personally defined outcomes in the most integrated community setting, ensure delivery of services in a manner that reflects personal preferences and choices, and contribute to the assurance of health and welfare.”
Prior to the implementation of MyCare Ohio it was difficult to find Independent Providers and at that time our Case Managers would post requests on the MyOhio HCP website. Today it is impossible because NO ONE wants to work for someone enrolled in MyCare Ohio because they know about the reimbursement issues (which are NOT better).

At this point our only option to find IPs is to go to:http://www.ohiohcp.org/myohiohcp.html and call or e-mail every provider (which I have done several times). No one in the MyCare Ohio managed care plans have been helpful. Recently, when I got desperate and thought that I would test what the Directors and Governor is sentencing us to I started e-mailing agencies. Either they will not respond when I e-mail or if they respond it's with a denial for the following reasons:

· They WILL NOT allow their providers to drive my vehicle or transport me (I work and actually have a life)
· They WILL NOT provide the training that my providers will need (It takes at least 3 weeks to a month or more for someone to learn how to move me without injury)
· They WILL NOT cover the hours that I need (My hours vary and some shifts end at 2am and some begin at 5am)

I absolutely hate agencies and that is the reason why 18 years ago I advocated with everyone else in the State for the Independent Providers. I find it ironic that they are pointing their fingers at IPs for fraud when the most publicized case in Ohio was the Makayla Norman case which had nurses from Exclusive Home Care Services.

As I previously stated I am a HOME Choice Transition Coordinator and I recently took a referral where an individual was physically and sexually abused by a Home Health AGENCY Aid. What about the issues with agencies? The State will not take responsibility for the areas that they have messed up - instead it is just easier to scrap an entire program.

I have had one nurse for 20 years now. She has been the most reliable person that I have ever had. She is an IP. All of my providers are IPs. In the past 18 years I have had 3 "No Shows - No Calls". When I was with agencies I cannot even begin to list the "No Shows", the "Call Offs" and the "No Coverage". And the restrictions that agencies put on the nurses and aids like they cannot transport us – how do we get to work?! And let’s not forget that EVERY agency informs us that they are not ultimately responsible to cover us.

The Directors and Governor have absolutely NO idea what it's like to have agencies as our provider. Director McCarthy recently stated at an Olmstead Task Force Meeting that he has personal experience with dealing with agencies – THAT’S A LIE! Until you are the person laying in that bed waiting on someone who does not show up, holding your bowels or bladder (or not being able to), calling off work and knowing this is your last call off, and having someone on the phone (who you don’t know) reminding you that you should have a back-up plan and there is nothing that they can do – “But have a good day” – you have NO IDEA what this is like! That is just 1 of millions of stories that have happened and will again.

The Department of Medicaid should hire (and I mean pay) someone who relies on care providers as there consultants. They will NEVER do that because that would validate that we might know something. The only time they bring People with Disabilities and the aging population to the table is when the Feds require “Focus Groups”. Our opinion doesn’t really matter – only their compliance with their requirements. I actually have a link that tells us what they are being paid (much more than our care providers and all of us).

I am tired of the bureaucrats cutting programs that are life and death for us. I have spent many hours in meetings with Director McCarthy regarding the MyCare Ohio Program, and other topics” I have to say that I feel betrayed over that. I truly believed that he had our backs - what a fool I am!

I have had enough of the games that everyone plays with us. I don't believe for one minute that anyone is on our side. They will tell us what they think will pacify us and then do whatever they want. The fight is on!

Respectfully,

Maria A. Matzik

Friday, March 6, 2015

Kasich's fraud prevention plan poses dangers to disabled citizens

To learn more about how Ohio's Governor John Kasich's plan would impact people with disabilities, take a look at this article "OHIO GOVERNOR KASICH'S PROPOSAL WOULD INSTITUTIONALIZE PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES."

Then, when you are sufficiently disgusted, sign the petition below and share this post on your social media outlets. Thank you!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Theatre Bizarre - The Gimpy Review



Jane Hash and Green Beard
photo by Alternative Noise Productions
My small and fragile frame is home to a ridiculously adventurous personality. This leads to many internal arguments when presented with an exciting yet risky new opportunity. Generally, I agree to this compromise with myself – I’ll try almost anything that sounds fun…once. If it turns out to be too dangerous though, I’m in and out like a cheap date and never return to the scene of the crime. However, when it turns out wickedly successful, I’ll likely do it again.

The most recent of my wickedly successful adventures took place last Friday in Detroit, Michigan at the largest Masonic Temple in the world. The venue – Theatre Bizarre! This event has been described as an art installation first and a party second. I agree. The following is a list of reasons why I will return to Theatre Bizarre (hopefully as a performer.)

The staff is truly helpful - When my entourage pulled into the parking lot and made it known to the parking attendants and security folk that a disabled person was on board, they all sprang into action. Not only did they know where the entrance ramp and stair lift was but they also knew how to work the lift! Many times I have been in situations where I was expected to know how to work an establishment’s stair lift. Sorry, I must have skipped that section of the Gimp Handbook.

The ambiance – When I first wheeled into the event, I thought, “This must be what a party would look like at Count Dracula’s castle.” The dim lighting, moving fog, and indescribable characters creeping out of the shadows kept me on my toes – figuratively speaking.

The mind fucking – Every person in attendance was actually part of the overall performance, whether they realized it or not. I was even slow on the uptake myself. Once I found my groove though, I started to play my part. When I sat perfectly still for a few minutes, I could tell that passersby were uncertain if I was a real person or just a prop. Then I would say “hello” and giggle when they’d jump. 

photo by Alternative Noise Productions


The elevators provided opportunities for such mind fuckery as well. I generally rode with my back to the door because it was just too crowded for me to turn my wheelchair around without breaking everyone’s toes. On one occasion though, a woman popped on and rested her ample booty upon my head. I don’t think she was trying to be rude. Her hands were full of beverages so her focus was on trying not to spill them. She just didn’t see me down bellow…I’m pretty damn short. So, I decided to give her booty a backward motorboat. It’s like the backward cowgirl but different. Then I told her that I usually charge for such services but I’d let her slide because she is cute. She was speechless.

Accessibility – I saw at least five other wheelchair-users there! Most of the time, when I participate in a non-mainstream event, I am the only wheelchair-user in attendance. Lack of accessibility is a factor. Every disabled person doesn’t have the luxury of being small and portable like me. Stairs can be a deal breaker for gimpsters. This Masonic Temple where Theatre Bizarre has made its home though has ramps, lifts, and elevators in all the right places.

Variety – Theatre Bizarre is such a large and action packed event, it isn’t possible to see it all. At the same time though, it is impossible to feel like you’ve actually missed anything at all. For example, I was really looking forward to The Dirty Devil’s Peep Show but I just didn’t make it there. However, I did get to see a solo performance of Miss Roxi D’Lite…as well as a singing zombie, rope bondage, flesh hook suspension, The Devil’s Tight Rope, and a few other things that I’m still processing.
Jane Hash & Flec S. Mindscape
The details – Holy visual stimulation Batman! There were absolutely no holes or flaws in this over the top masquerade theme. Everywhere I looked, there was something or someone so captivatingly creepy, strange, and beautiful that it was hard to keep moving. I found myself getting stuck on one intense image after another. Amazing!

Body diversity – Anyone who is shying away from being a performer because they don’t fit pop culture’s mold of what is attractive needs to attend Theatre Bizarre. I have never seen so many talented, professional, and beautiful performers under one roof before! They came in every shape, size, color, gender, and physical ability. It was particularly endearing for me to see a small statured, wheelchair-user play a guitar and dedicate his song to all the “cripples” out there.

The characters – Aside of the amazingly talented headlining acts, there were plenty of other performers who deserve recognition. The Elevator Attendants were great comedic peacekeepers. Keeping the elevators from getting full beyond capacity while staying in character had to be a challenge, especially after drunk-o-clock. Then, there were other characters that mingled with the crowd to maintain the creepy cool vibe throughout the night. I confess…the scary devil woman made me scream like a little girl.

This is a magnificent event that I am fortunate enough to have experienced. Thank you Theatre Bizarre family for putting on a show that compares to no other. See you all next year!
Jane Hash and Tutu Twin
photo by Alternative Noise Productions



Sunday, October 12, 2014

Jane Hash - MyCare Consumer Advocate Co-Chair

Dear Readers,

It is no secret that I have been fiercely vocal on social media, regarding the sloppy and irresponsible manner in which the MyCare Ohio program has been implemented. Numerous elderly and disabled citizens are suffering in ways that are unimaginable. 

The population that is most affected by the MyCare Ohio crisis, are those who are no stranger to abuse and neglect because of their physical and/or intellectual vulnerabilities. Many are afraid and unable to advocate for themselves for fear of further mistreatment. Instead of reaching out to Social Workers, Case Managers, or representatives of the Managed Care Plans, these victims of MyCare Ohio are reaching out to me...Jane Hash.

In case you are wondering why these folks would come to me for help, just glance at this blog's description there to your right. When I said, "I am the politically incorrect voice of the unheard" I meant it. These victims are about to be heard...loud and clear.

Allow me to reintroduce myself... My name is Jane Hash and I am the MyCare Consumer Advocate Co-Chair for the East Central Region. I have volunteered to take on this role to make sure all of the heartbreaking and compelling personal stories that have been shared with me, are heard by those who have the power to make the needed changes.

Below is a brief description of our plan of action. I encourage you to share this information because we still are unclear as to how many people are being affected. Also, if you are a dual-eligible who is being affected by MyCare Ohio, please look below and join the conference call that is scheduled for your area. Consumers - this is your opportunity, your safe place, to share your story. I will go to battle for you but I need to know from you EXACTLY what you want me to fight for.

In solidarity,
Jane Hash


Date: Friday, October 31st

Times: (1:00pm -2:00pm Northwest, Northeast and Northeast Central), (2:00pm – 3:00pm East Central and West Central); and (3:00pm – 4:00pm Central and Southwest)

Not sure what region you're in? Click here and scroll down to map.

The call-in number (free call) and participant code is: 
(877) 366-0711 Participant code - 53257144#




What you can do:
  • ·       Let your voice be heard
  • ·     Share your story
  • ·     Help provide a feedback loop the Plan, State and Federal Government
  • ·     Want a say in your treatment delivery
  • ·     Want to ensure you are getting your medical equipment
  • ·     Happy or frustrated with MyCare Ohio

  RSVP - For more information or to join the coalition contact:


John Arnold
OCVIC, Project Coordinator
614-456-0060 x 237




Saturday, October 4, 2014

A Dance for All Seasons

 

Setting the stage for a spectacular 34th season, the Dancing Wheels Company has created a subscription initiative that will showcase the diversity and expressiveness of the Company. 

Mary Verdi-Fletcher, Founder of
Dancing Wheels Company
photo by Alternative Noise Productions
The fall program kicks off the season on October 18 at 7:30 p.m. with a Sweetest Day concert “For the Young & the Young at Heart”!  Bring your loved ones to this family-oriented repertory concert at the Rainey Institute, which will include repertory favorites State of Mind/Mine choreographed by Young Park, former Artistic Director of the Cleveland based SAFMOD Company; the Temptation Suite, a fun and romantic work created by Sean Rawls, a emerging choreographer from New York City chosen for the Rock that Rolls Project; and A Wing/a Prayer, a fast-paced precision piece choreographed by the Company’s Artistic Advisor Mark Tomasic specifically for all wheelchair dancers. A special surprise appearance by the School of Dancing Wheels’ Performance Ensemble will bring smiles and uplifted spirits to audiences of all ages.  New to the stage will be a collaborative piece entitled Plight & Pain on a Plane, a satirical study of the many eccentricities of passengers on an airplane co-choreographed by Company members Dezare Foster, Frank Polk, Kelly Clymer, and Emma Parker with input by Founding Artistic Director Mary Verdi-Fletcher.  The finale, Let the Good Times Roll, was choreographed by Ginger Cox and is a steamy and sultry suite that is sure to raise the temperature in the room.  A Sweetest Day treat will “sweeten” the evening for all of our loyal and loving patrons as they continue on with their special evening. The Rainey Institute is located at 1705 E. 55th Street in Cleveland. A guarded lot is available on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

The winter season will offer a new holiday tradition with the world premiere of Babes in Toyland!  This re-imagined classic is choreographed by Company Rehearsal Director Catherine Meredith Lambert, and is filled with love, laughter and hysterical hijinks!  This colorful production will include the 15-member Dancing Wheels Company playing such characters as Mother Goose, Jack and Jill, Jack be Nimble, Little Bo Peep, Mary Contrary, Tom Piper, and the villainous Barnaby. An awesome march of 50 toy soldiers will include students from the Dancing Wheels School joined by students from On Your Toes Dance Studio. The production will run for (4) shows at the St. Ignatius Breen Center including two10:30 a.m. Student Matinees on December 4 and 5, an 8p.m. official public opening with a champagne reception on Friday, December 5, and a family matinee on Saturday, December 6 at 2:00 p.m. -- complete with a “Trip through Toyland” kids party! 

Rounding out the spring, Dancing Wheels will join forces with Elec Simon, world percussionist and cast member of the Off-Broadway show STOMP. This high-energy production entitled “Rhythm & Wheels” will get your pulse pumping to the beat of a different drum!  Using alternative and handmade percussion instruments including their very own wheelchairs, the lively cast of hip-hop dancers, tappers and percussionists will set the stage ablaze with excitement.  This one-time-only production will include a VIP pre-party and a meet-and-greet after-party at the Cleveland Masonic and Performance Arts Center… home of the Dancing Wheels Company!

The season subscriber package will include a 10% discount for not only the subscriber, but for any additional tickets they purchase as well throughout the season.  Subscribers will also receive priority seating, backstage tours, and name recognition in programs.  Season ticket prices are from $63-$146 per person, with support to launch this effort generously funded in part by The George Gund Foundation.

The Dancing Wheels Company & School, now in its 34th season, is America’s first and foremost physically integrated dance company.  The 15-member ensemble comprised of highly skilled stand up and sit-down (wheelchair) dancers travel the globe performing and teaching before more than 30,000 people each year.  The Company and its President/Founding Artistic Director Mary Verdi-Fletcher are the 2014 recipients of The Governor’s Award for Arts Education in OhioThe 2014 Ohio Dance Award for significant contribution to dance in Ohio, and the 2014 International Henry Viscardi Award for significant contributions made to promote the independence and equality of people with disabilities.  The School of Dancing Wheels, under the leadership of School Coordinator, Emma Parker serves 13 organizations and schools each year with outreach and educational programs and reaches over 6,000 children in Northeast Ohio alone.  The School’s in-studio classes provide opportunities for professional training as well as programs that seek the sheer pleasure of dance for recreational purposes.  The School also offers students to rise to a performance level through its Performance Ensemble.  For more information about the Company and School log ontowww.dancingwheels.org.

Season Sponsors
Bruening Foundation, Cleveland Foundation, Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, Honor Project Trust, Invacare Official Supplier of Top End Dance Wheelchairs, Kulas Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Ohio Arts Council, Target, The Emerson Foundation, The George Gund Foundation, The Kennedy Center VSA, The Kuhn Family Foundation, and The Nord Family Foundation.