My name is Craig Sears. I'm a survivor of a traumatic brain injury. My journey has made me all too familiar with the difficulties faced by individuals and their families working through the arbitrary system of care.
It was July. It was a beautiful Connecticut summer afternoon and I was out riding my motorcycle. I had just turned 20, and had a lot going for me. I was making a very good life for myself. I had a great family and a good job in construction and as a part-time mechanic. I was making good money for a kid my age. I had a great girlfriend and lots of friends. I had two cars and lived in a nice condo right on the water. I was living the American Dream. I'll leave that up to you to fill it in because I had everything a man could have possibly wanted — and in a heartbeat it was all gone.
Suddenly, I came up over a hill, and there was a car going the wrong way. It was too late. I couldn't stop and we collided. I was thrown nearly 40 feet over on-coming traffic. I was not wearing a helmet and I landed head first into a curb, just missing a telephone pole. I have no memory of the next 6 months. That period of time is a Black Hole in my life. I was in and out of a coma, undergoing multiple surgeries. The doctors operated on my head, and did what they could to patch up my body. This was the beginning of my physical recovery.
Though my body was healing, a bigger problem went untreated and no one realized it. Insult was added to injury. This is where I fell through the cracks. Despite having my head in a cast, no one identified the true nature of my injury as being a Traumatic Brain injury. That oversight would cost me dearly in the years to come. I had no idea of the hell I was in for. Had I known what lay ahead, I would never have fought so damn hard to make it. I would have given up, lay down and died. My struggles were constant, and I had to relearn everything. How to walk, how to talk, how to eat, how to use the bathroom; How to care for myself, and then there was the incessant pain, the physical pain of my body overcoming weakness and injury. Worse yet, there was the anguish of not knowing who I was.
Things went from bad to worse. Soon, the treatment center I was in transferred me out to a local hospital and put me in a mental health ward. (I was told there were no other services offered for people with traumatic brain injury.) I spent the next 9 months locked in against my will, slowly regaining my memory. It was a locked ward and the doors only opened when someone came in or out. I started sneaking out when they would bring in breakfast, lunch or dinner trays. I would run to the back stairwell where the service elevators were, jump in go to the first floor and dart out the front or side door. I would get a couple hours of peace before I would get brought back by the police, because the hospital would always call them and tell them I had snick out again. I was angry and I wanted out. I would sit by the phone for hours trying to figure out how to make a call out. I finally figured it out and began calling out to anyone who would listen to me - Town officials, State Government anyone who could get me out. While I knew I didn't need to be there, I did know that I needed help in other areas. But the help I needed wasn't available. Keep in mind traumatic brain injury is not a mental illness.
Eventually, a sympathetic ear at the Governor's office helped arrange a meeting between my family, my doctors, and a state representative. I told them all, I wanted out and I needed out and it was clear to them that I was right. But where was I to go, I had only one real option and that was my family. Yet I didn't want to be a burden to my parents. I applied for Section 8 disability housing, and was put on a waiting list. I was turned down repeatedly. So in the meantime, my family helped me get into my own one room efficiency apartment. While a big step up from the psychiatric ward, this too, was far from ideal. I now found myself living alone, except for the roaches and rats, and vulnerable, in an area known for drug dealers and prostitutes. I wandered those mean streets, trying to regain some kind of memory. I would watch other people to see what they were doing, how they were acting in order to regain anything that I knew how to do before the accident. All I could figure out at this time was that this was not who I was.
With time and my family's help, things began to improve for me. My mother got me a weight set, my father bought me a bicycle and I started volunteering at a local hospital, which gave me access to their physical therapy rooms. I'd learn what they were doing for rehabilitation and go back home at night to do the exercises on my own in order to regain my strength and abilities. But without any medical oversight, I'd overdo it and I would hurt myself repeatedly. There were many times, my mother took me to the hospital because I hurt so bad that I couldn't walk or move.
Socially, things were awkward. One day after volunteering, I was leaving the hospital and I saw a woman fall to the floor. My instincts were to grab a wheelchair, put her in it and run her into the emergency room. I thought I was doing the right thing. But in reality, my actions upset the emergency room staff, and the next day, the hospital asked me not to return. I was crushed.
One of the lasting consequences of my Traumatic Brain Injury was that I would slur my words when I spoke and my balance would be off when I walked. Instead of realizing that this is how I am, people just assumed that I was drinking or using drugs. No one would take me serious. It became harder and harder to find where I fit in. For example, I was riding my bicycle and a Bridgeport police officer pulled me over. I explained to him that I suffer from a brain injury. He then asked, "Are you on medication?" when I said yes, he gave me a ticket for riding my bicycle while impaired and then sent me on my way.
While I was struggling daily to live with my brain injury, I ended up with several minor arrests for public urination and things of that nature. When I would ask for help it resulted in me constantly be thrown into State Psychiatric hospitals, such as the former Fairfield Hills Hospital in Newtown Connecticut... After being 4 point restrained and forcefully drugged multiple times and having other patients spitting, urinating, throwing shit at me, and watching them have full blown conversations with themselves, I realized that this type of life wasn't for me. It was like a stay in "One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest." It was cruel and unusual punishment, no one should be treated the way they treated us. My life turned into a constant tug of war. If it was not a mental institution it was a jail cell.
For example, I was walking down the street and I had to use the bathroom. It was very early in the morning and nothing was open. I saw a wooded area by the train tracks. I was using the bathroom behind a tree. I was seen by a Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA police officer that was patrolling the area with his dog. When I spotted him I zipped up my pants and started walking away. When he saw me he let the dog loose. I was severely attacked and had to go to the hospital to be treated for my injuries. When I was released from the hospital I was placed in police custody and informed that I was under arrest for attempted attack on a peace officer because my leg moved when the MTA police dog was attacking me. They accused me of trying to kick the dog. I knew this was crap because I was the one taken to the hospital, not the dog. But the following day I was brought to court. I never saw an attorney; they just continued my case and sent me to Bridgeport Correctional Center for two weeks. I returned to court, this went on for about three months and from there I was transferred to a mental institution for another three months, (Connecticut Valley Hospital in Middletown,) and then I was released on probation. It was like a revolving door, I can't count how many times they did this to me.
With the help of my family, I moved into and out of different apartments. But the pieces of my mind and my life didn't fit quite right. I was restless and depressed. I struggled to cope. I turned to what I saw so many others do on the streets: alcohol and drugs. I learned the wrong way to deal with my problems. I thought it would help me forget all that I suffered through. Everything I long fought for, I now started to lose. It was all slipping away. I found myself alone and getting into trouble more often. I ended up in shelters, local lockups, and numerous mental health facilities all over the state. I continued on my downward spiral and soon I wound up homeless; and not long after that in prison.
The police, the court, the judge and the law, didn't know, care or consider Traumatic Brain Injury, or the fact that I had one. And once behind bars, neither did the warden. I served 5 years for what other people would sleep off overnight in the local lockup, and then clear up with a brief court appearance. Instead, I ended up inside a level four, high security prison, surrounded by gang members, rapists, killers, and child molesters. I was locked in an 8'x10' cell twenty-four hours a day with a vicious inmate next to me. I was always so scared to come out of my cell but at the same time I was scared to be in it, because of all the other inmates and because you had no choice but to be in a 2 man cell.
For example, One day I started to realize that a lot of my things were going missing. When I realized my cellie was stealing from me, I let the Correctional Officer (CO) know during wreck what was going on and I asked for a cell change. I can only imagine that the CO said something to him because after wreck, my cellie attacked me in my cell. After every wreck they do a count and when the CO came by my cell he saw us on the floor fighting. Next thing I knew there were CO's pulling us off one another and putting us in handcuffs and shackles and dragging us off to the AD/SEG for 2 weeks. From there I was sent back to my cell and was put on CTQ for the next 30 days, and I lost all my property (everything) - CTQ is Confinement to Quarters 23 hours a day lockdown, were you can only come out of your cell for a shower, in reality it's 15min. and ASU is Administrative Segregation Unit also known as AD/SEG or the hole. I guess the difference between the two is that if an inmate receives CTQ as a disciplinary action the inmate stays in his same house (cell) but is confined to that area. Where if he was doing AD/SEG time he is in a totally different housing unit; things like this were always happening to me.
I was put in prison for Violation of probation. Due to lack of services for TBI sufferers, I was again homeless. I was walking down a road and I needed to pee and nothing was open. Due to my previous experience with the MTA dog, I was very leery to relieve myself outside. So when I saw a garage open I went inside and took care of business. As I turned around I saw a Fairfield Police Officer standing there. I asked him, "is there a problem officer?" The next thing I knew I felt a hand on the back of my neck and I was thrown to the ground. From there I was handcuffed and thrown in the back of a police car. The police officer got in the car and once he was driving, I asked again "What's wrong, I was just taking a piss?"
The next day I was brought to court, from there to Bridgeport Correctional Center. I was housed and brought back and forth and the last day I was brought to court I was told by the Public Defender/"pretender" that I was going to the Connecticut Valley hospital to a brain injury unit but before this happened I needed to see a judge. Yes, they all knew I had a brain injury and how I needed help, but they chose not to. When I was brought upstairs to the courtroom it was closed off for a private hearing. Someone from the state office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities, a doctor and my mother were there waiting. We were all told I was going to the hospital into a TBI unit, but needed to see the judge first. Bridgeport Superior court judge Lubbie Harper Jr. never heard anyone's statement, he opened my file and closed it and said he was sentencing me to the department of Corrections because they have one of the best mental health systems in the state. I'm still on NO medication and I never saw any shrinks, in or out of jail and I'm NOT mentally ill and when I was put into prison I was put into general population. This time the court gave me 5 years V.O.P. for taking a piss.
It’s bad enough that while behind bars; I received absolutely no help for my disabilities. There was no early release, or time off for good behavior from my sentence. Traumatic Brain Injury or not, I served every measure of that sentence to the fullest. It was hell!
During my incarcerations, I suffered many indignities and witnessed atrocities. I spent years locked up twenty-three and a half hours a day, only being allowed out to shower and make a phone call. I was constantly sent to the medical ward and stripped absolutely naked and left there for days or weeks at a time. I've witnessed murders and rapes, and there were even nights I would be yelling and screaming in my sleep. Only to be woken up by the CO and put back into a strip cell. Words cannot express the horror of it all. All during a five year prison sentence. Five years that I spent every minute enduring one indignity or another.
Somehow, I survived to be released. Life though continues to be a struggle. I have no friends. I have no money. I have few options, and fewer choices. I am very uncertain of my future. I still want the American Dream, but it feels further away than ever. I want to be hopeful, but I know all too well how quickly good can go bad in life. But I try my best to help those with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) get the help we need, and to avoid the mistakes, and missteps I made.
Having to relive it all over again
In this file are my ABI Dr’s notes along with Staff notes of just some of the things I’ve been through because of Jamie Arber, Patty Happy trying to justify getting out of providing me the services that I was entitled to. This happened to me several years ago and because of the false accusations made by Staff superiors at Employment Options LLC Jamie Arber now of Mindscape Industries, Patty Happy. It's still coming back to haunt (me/US) to this day take for example Stephanie’s file below my notes, let’s not forget DSS and all that B.S that they put me through, I had those put on file with Jessica @ P&A that brings us to the new agency workers. Once again being a voice as you know I am dead set against the new case managers working on the ABI waiver and I still am. On 9/7/16 I had my first team meeting with my new case worker, and it went better than I expected. I felt as if things finally were starting to make a little more sense and this new case worker was here to work on my side for once and not against me. Then a day or two went by and my doctor informed me that the new ABI Specialized Care Manager was someone who I worked with before, (with another company) and that she needed to be removed from my team because there could be issues in the future because of false accusations that happened years back. Because of my Brain Injury I was not aware that it was the same person until my doctor addressed it to me. But she was a great help then and now she seemed even more into my program and trying to find ways to help me and better my program to make it work for me…
I am a survivor of traumatic brain injury TBI due to my injury I have memory problems, speech problems, balance issues and many other things. I am disabled because of this and receive services from the Acquired Brain Injury ABI Medicaid Waiver this waiver allows the state to permit organizations to provide non-medical services to people with ABI/TBI enabling them to live in the community outside of nursing homes and institutions. I'm posting online my experiences as a survivor of a Traumatic Brain Injury TBI. It is to show the way the United States is not dealing with brain injury and the human cost associated with this neglect and how easy it is for program providers to discriminate against, and taking advantage of someone with a brain injury the way the State of Connecticut; Dept of Social Services, DSS, Employment Options LLC, did to me.
Employment Options LLC 91 Willenbrock Road, # 3a Oxford, CT is? I know what they say they are but I'm still not entirely sure what it is they actually do for brain injury survivors since I experienced no help whatsoever except for a lot of BS! EO has contracts and/or services Bureau of Rehabilitation services, the acquired brain wavier, DDS, and a variety of school system. Staff superiors at Employment Options LLC Jamie Arber, Patty Happy, Case manager Richard Kiley told me, Craig Sears; that EO had someone to work with me that was ILST approved turns out they were not! And when that person moved on, EO told me that they had someone else that was ILST approved, turns out they were not! Then when asked by my doctor about it, again EO stated that they had someone else that was ILST approved turns out they were also not! Do you see the pattern here?
After making formal complaints to my surprise EO finally sent me a person I can trust. At first everything was working for me the way I needed my program to work. I finally had a care giver by the name of Shannon that was a very motivating - dependable – carrying person who took the time to help me with whatever I need help with. In my life being a brain injury survivor, that’s a very rare person to find. When asked how my program was working for me this is what I told them.
During this time I just started advocating for a national children’s PABI plan.
That’s when the games began all over again! EO removed her from working with me and Sent Pre-Vocational Services staff who were instructed by EO management to refrain from providing me any services outlined in my State waiver plan! This made it appear as if they were providing me services when in fact they were not providing me any services to assist me in my work as an advocate!
I informed my Medicaid Waiver Doctor about the fact I was not receiving services outlined in my State waiver plan that Employment Options LLC reported providing me. When the doctor and the Office of Protection and Advocacy for Persons with Disabilities confronted EO about these facts, (Talk about ignorant, self-absorbed, Jamie Arber and Patty Happy) they then made unreasonable confrontational and defamation of character accusations regarding me working with female staff, and implied I had acted inappropriately. Reporting this to my Medicaid Waiver doctor and P&A as the reason why I was not receiving services.
I found this out at my Dept. of Social Services team meeting. I immediately asked my doctor to look into this B.S.
You are correct. Shannon denies every accusation made by Employment Options LLC. Wow!
Tariq Abdulaziz PhD MS MS MBA
RE: Shannon and Employment Options LLC
Attention: Craig Sears
I am writing to memorialize my conversation with Shannon on today. The purpose of my conversation with Shannon was to ascertain, as you requested, Shannon's position on her removal from your case by her superiors at Employment Options LLC 91Willenbrock Road Oxford CT 06478
I informed Shannon that both Jamie Arber and Patty Happy had conversations with me regarding her Shannon safety. Jamie Arber and Patty Happy indicated that she Shannon was uncomfortable working with you Craig. Jamie and Patty further related to me that Shannon had requested a change in placement, as she felt uncomfortable working with you. Jamie further stated that he would not place Shannon in a situation where she was uncomfortable and or vulnerable. Finally, he stated that Shannon had been hired for a different position and she was only a temporary solution until permanent staff could be hired.
Shannon vehemently denies that there was ever any behavioral and or sexually inappropriate behavior on your part in any way during her tenure with you. She did not hesitate or waiver when she stated that she never felt at-risk while working with you, she never requested a change in placement, there were no accusations leveled by her against you to her superiors, there were no incidents of inappropriate behavior on your part nor any attempt of an act of inappropriate behavior whether verbal or physical. Shannon stated that she enjoyed working with you and she values what you are attempting to achieve.
It is my hope that this addresses your concerns regarding Shannon's perspective on this matter. If I can be of further assistance regarding this matter please do not hesitate to contact me directly.
Tariq Abdulaziz PhD MS MS MBA
If any of this has happened or is happening to you or someone you know please speak up, the one and only way that a change is possible if enough people have become fed up. But if people don’t come forward it will continue. The only way we can grow by letting people know we exist and we are fighting for everyone.
Taken advantage of by Connecticut ABI Waiver program providers
click here: https://braininjurymyblog.wordpress.com/2014/08/16/what-comes-around-goes-around/
Employment Options - slander, false accusations, made by a Personal Care Aides/Medicaid Waiver Program provider
click here: https://employment-options.pissedconsumer.com/slander-false-accusations-made-by-a-personal-care-aides-medicaid-waiver-program-provider-20110416232636.html
Click here: https://braininjurymyblog.wordpress.com/2016/09/17/stephanies-file/
If you’re disabled or a parent of a brain injury survivor or case manager/caregiver and Jamie Arber, M.A., C.B.I.S., C.C.H.Director of Operations EMDR Practitioner, Current Mindscape Industries, Previous Independent Living Solutions, Employment Options LLC, Eleish Van Breems Ltd or Patty happy of Employment Options LLC works or is working for you do what I did - Tell them to go kick rocks and fire them! These are not the kind of people you want working with brain injury survivors! Sec. 17b-260a-1I, Individuals who are eligible for ABI services shall be given free choice of all qualified providers of each service included in his or her plan of care.
This makes no sense it should have never happen. Shannon I’m sorry for what Employment Options LLC, Jamie Arber now of Mindscape Industries, Patty Happy did, and continues to do to brain injury survivors and Staff.