I-Team: Clergy sex abuse therapy payments

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Dozens of Western Massachusetts clergy sex abuse victims are now receiving counseling in an effort to move on, but not everyone is happy with the Diocese’s handling of financial implications. One man asked the 22News I-Team help with what he calls “a slow reimbursement process.”

“The Diocese and the victims advocate has just never been helpful,” said Easthampton’s Ray Drewnowski.

Drewnowski has harsh words for the Springfield Diocese. Not surprising: he is one of dozens of western Massachusetts clergy sex abuse victims. The Diocese validated his claims, and like most victims, he required therapy: therapy the church would pay for, or so he thought.

“What I realized was, they only really want to reimburse you for your co-payment with the insurance company that your employer has you on,” Drewnowski said. “It was a moment for me to stand up and say: ‘No, that’s wrong. That’s not what you’re telling people.'”

Drewnowski says that he got them to reimburse his costs in full, but he fears that may not be the case for everyone. He complains that payments rarely come in on time, and he doesn’t always get a warm response when he asks for it.

“There are months when I get no check and my therapist is waiting to get paid.”

“I just last week got an e-mail and was shaking from her e-mail, I was so upset.  I just said, ‘I’m done. Something has to change,'” Drewnowski added.

That’s when he got the 22News I-Team involved. We took Drewnowski’s claims to the Diocesan Spokesman Mark Dupont and Victims’ Services Director Patti McManamy,  to get as many answers as possible.

“As we can show you, in no instances is Ray out of pocket for these,” said Diocese Spokesman Mark Dupont.

DuPont refutes Ray’s story. He says that all victims choose how they want to get reimbursed and are never forced to use their insurance. He’s says no two cases are alike.

“That means we’re dealing with 50-75 different individuals who have different mechanisms, and we’re doing the best we can. Somedays we will be the first to admit, we maybe fall a little short,” he said. “In December, when we were in the middle of our audit for child protection services and we have the holidays, and storms, so there are realistic reasons why sometimes the process is longer than others.”

Dupont says that it takes about a month to process payments, but there have been times it took longer.

McManamy also noted most therapists contact the Diocese directly, but in Ray’s case, he’s the middleman.

“Most therapists do their billing and we send payment to the therapist.  That moves the client from worrying about money when they’re already worried about their emotional health and when they’re angry with the Diocese, obviously for very good reason.”

Drewnowski, who once dreamed of becoming a priest, says he no longer needs a church to find peace. He’s found love and happiness, and hopes, with the I-Teams help, his reimbursement issues will be resolved.

“I have a feeling I’m not the only person being treated like this.  I’m in therapy to try and heal from church abuse, not to be reabused,” Ray said.

We should note that Ray told us since we got involved, he has gotten all payments he was waiting for.

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