Behavioral Health System Planning Forums – Fall 2014
The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene is hosting three forums to gather input to improve the behavioral health system. The forums are open to all members of the public and we hope to hear suggestions from a wide range of community stakeholders: consumers, people in recovery, youth, families, providers, peer advocates and peer specialists, advocates and others. CLICK HERE to access the flyer, with details of this event.
Edwardo Lopez, a porter with AHRC New York City‘s Hudson River Services, and Brent Matthew Lillard, a graphic designer with The Nicholas Center for Autism and Spectrum Designs Foundation in Port Washington in Suffolk County have been named the 2014 William B. Joslin Outstanding Performance Award co-recipients by New York State Industries for the Disabled, Inc. (NYSID). The award is given annually to working individuals with disabilities to recognize their achievements both on-the-job and for overcoming the challenges in their lives. Edwardo is a maintenance worker at the Eltingville Transit Center in Staten Island and is contracted by Hudson River Services.
“This award makes me feel great, but a little nervous because I’ve never gotten an achievement like this,” Edwardo said. “I think it will open up more things for me in the future.”
Edwardo, called Eddie by friends and family, was one of 13 children. At one point Edwardo and his whole family lived together in the same house in Bronx. “My mom and I were the only ones working in the house out of the 13 of us, so it was hard,” he said. “When I have a little loose change after I take care of my responsibilities, I help them, I try to buy clothes, shoes, bags. Sometimes it leaves me in the hole but… it makes me feel good.”
Edwardo’s responsibilities at the transit center include landscaping, sweeping the outside and inside of the facility, mopping bathrooms, and shoveling and plowing snow in the winter. Despite the mental and physical challenges his job can present, Edwardo cherishes his employment. “I love to be hands-on,” he said. “I can’t be stuck in the office. This job keeps me motivated, it keeps me moving.”
Edwardo’s supervisor, Raymond Vicels, expressed his appreciation for the hard work and dedication his award-winning employee shows on a daily basis “Edwardo is in charge of cleaning the whole facility,” Raymond said. “He’s very dependable. I’ve used him in other sites and he’s always eager to work. He always goes out of his way, asking ‘Anymore you want me to do?’ He’s one of the best workers I have.”
Steve Towler, Associate Executive Director, described the importance of the Joslin Award to both the agency and Edwardo. “We have nominated people and had runner-ups before but we’ve never had a winner of [this] statewide competition,” Towler said. “Eddie is a great selection on behalf of the AHRC staff recognizing his accomplishments and the barriers he’s overcome. On behalf of AHRC NYC, the board of directors, all of the staff at AHRC and all of our indivudals we really congratulate Eddie for all of his hard work and we are so proud of him. Great job, Eddie,” Towler said.
Edwardo now has a goal on obtaining a supervisory position and seeks to continue to provide for himself, his family, and especially his one-year-old daughter, Madeline Joy. “Mostly all of [my paycheck] goes to my daughter,” he said. “I want her to go to college and do things I never got to do myself.”
In its 11th year, NYSID’s Joslin Awards Program has recognized 534 Outstanding Performers, and awarded 13 of those individuals with the final William B. Joslin Outstanding Performance Award.
The 2014 William B. Joslin Outstanding Performance Award co-recipients and all 2014 Joslin Outstanding Performers will be honored during NYSID’s Annual Meeting on Monday, September 8 at 5 p.m. at The Saratoga Hilton in Saratoga Springs.
The Young Adult Internship Program (YAIP) has produced two more success stories with different people but a common goal – a better life through employment. Iventt Gonzales and Lanora Woody each shared information about how they first heard about YAIP and how the program taught them the skills and knowledge needed to attain a job of their choosing.
“I had been given a YAIP flyer and I just crushed it up,” Lanora said at the Staten EBS office, where she now spends part of her working day as a maintenance worker contracted by Hudson River Services. “[Later] I was at the ferry and I saw a guy mopping the floor and talking to himself. Then I was on the bus and saw another guy cleaning outside this office. They were both wearing Hudson River shirts. I got off the bus and asked the worker about his job and he told me about YAIP, and I said ‘Wait, I have the flyer in my pocket!’”
Both Iventt and Lanora found out about YAIP during a difficult period in their lives. Iventt was volunteering at the LGBT center upstairs form Staten Island EBS and was struggling. Lanora was unemployed and living with her aunt. Both said that YAIP gave them with an opportunity to change their situations and move them on a path to employment and happiness.
“The skills [YAIP] provided me with are skills I can carry on,” Iventt said. These skills included resume building, properly filling out job applications, writing cover letters, and appropriate workplace behavior. The program also taught these skills in a variety of ways, such as learning by listening and using a more visual approach. Both Iventt and Lanora said that the visual presentation of skills best suited their needs.
Upon completing the 14-week internship program Iventt and Lanora turned the strategies and skills they acquired into successful employment. Iventt was offered a position through EBS as a job coach and Lanora began work for Hudson River Services working at both Staten Island EBS and AHRC New York City’s main office in Manhattan.
Currently a new group of young people have begun the program, which is now in its third week of 14. On this day the group, led by Melissa Limeri, discussed local current events and how it affects their lives; the problems with stereotypes; and an exercise on determining what constitutes discrimination in the workplace. “I hope that [YAIP] is a stepping stone to bigger and better things,” Joseph Cosenza, a current enrollee said. “This isn’t a permanent place, just a building block to the tower of success.”
On August 6, 2014, AHRC New York City, in collaboration with other organizations in NYSARC, Inc.‘s Southeast Region, hosted an event to formally recognize the Congressmen and women representing the region and their work on behalf of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) and the organizations that support them. The Congressmen were presented with the 2014 Partnership Award, in recognition of their efforts in support of people with I/DD. Congressman Michael Grimm (R-NY) of the 13th congressional district and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) of the 12th congressional district, represented by her deputy chief-of-staff Tricia Shimamura, attended the event. Sen. Kristin Gillibrand (D-NY), Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) and Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) were scheduled to attend but were called back to Washington at the last minute.
Laura J. Kennedy, President of AHRC New York City’s Board of Directors and Vice President of the Southeast Region of NYSARC, Inc. welcomed the other NYSARC organizations in attendance, which included AHRC Nassau, AHRC Suffolk, Arc of Westchester, Putnam ARC, AHRC Orange, Sullivan Arc, and Ulster-Greene ARC. 12,000 people are employed by the organizations that comprise NYSARC, Inc.’s Southeast Region and provide services to over 22,000 individuals with I/DD and their families. Ms. Kennedy also thanked the representatives, particularly Congressman Grimm from Staten Island, as she has a daughter living in an AHRC New York City residence located in Staten Island.
“It’s an honor and a pleasure welcoming all of you to this event recognizing the partnership we have with NYSARC chapters in our region and our representatives in Congress,” she began.”[Our] accomplishments are due to the support we receive in Washington.”
Ms. Kennedy then introduced Gary Lind, AHRC New York City’s Executive Director, who stated, “This is an exciting but also a scary time for folks with developmental disabilities and their families and those of us that are service providers.” His presentation focused on the new managed care organization created by five NYSARC affiliates in the southeast region – AHRC NYC, Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester, and Rockland.
“What makes this [organization] so different and what no one else in the country has figured out is managed care doesn’t lend itself well to a population that is going to present themselves for services and support each and every day,” Mr. Lind said. He explained that the MetroArcs are well-positioned to assume this responsibility because they are family governed and have created long-term life plans and care coordination for all the people they service. Mr. Lind also said that the MetroArcs have taken advantage of a program in the recent Affordable Care Act called Fully Integrated Duals Advantage (FIDA), allowing the coordination of plans for people who receive both Medicaid and Medicare benefits; this includes a large section of those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
“We scored much higher on our proposal [to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] than most of the managed care companies that have been in this business forever,” he said, “by understanding what is the model of care that you need to support people.” He also stated that this is the only FIDA in country exclusively serving people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Also speaking at the event was Nina Giacobbe, 23, a self-advocate supported by AHRC New York City and a recent graduate of the College of Staten Island’s Melissa Riggio Higher Education Program. Upon announcing her recent achievement, Grimm let out a loud “Hooray!”
“Self-advocacy here means a lot to me,” Nina said. “Kids with disabilities don’t get the opportunity to speak up a lot. Going to events like this is important. It really helps.” Nina explained the services AHRC NYC has provided her with feelings she has about her recent graduation from the CSI program. “Becoming a graduate made realize that my life is changing but in a good way and in a positive way because I’m making those changes for myself and I’m making choices for myself,” she said with a smile. She continued on that she is currently interning at On Your Mark, an organization based in Staten Island also working with people intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Ric Swierat, Arc of Westchester’s Executive Director, gave an overview of some of the political issues important to people with I/DD. He advocated for government to provide agencies with the resources and appropriate amount of time to implement reforms such as downsizing sheltered workshops and moving to a community-based model of care and employment. “As family-driven organizations we are committed to doing the right thing, but also doing it the right way for people we support,” he said. “The timeframes and government expectations need to be realistic.”
Ms. Kennedy then handed out Thank You Awards on behalf of the South East Region of NYSARC to Congressmen Grimm and Maloney for their support. Congressman Grimm recounted a story of when he was a teenager working at the Marist Brothers Camp at Esopus, servicing people with Downs’s syndrome. “One of the Marist Brothers that was there asked us why we were there, and it was a no-brainer: We’re here to take care of the kids,’” Grimm answered. “And he said ‘Well, technically that’s true…but what you’re really here for is to give the parents a break for a week.’ That’s stayed with me ever since.”
Ms. Shimamura accepted Congresswoman Maloney’s award on her behalf. She stated that in addition to being Rep. Maloney’s social worker on staff that she has a nephew with autism. Ms. Shimamura also reasserted “the congresswoman’s commitment to an especially important population of people” and her efforts to foster continuing partnership between Congress, the organizations serving people with I/DD, and their families.
Meeting with Senator Schumer in Albany
The article below comes to us from Ben Golden, Director of Governmental Affairs, at NYSARC, Inc., of which AHRC New York City is a chapter:
Senator Charles Schumer came to Albany today to promote the ABLE Act at a press conference coordinated by NYSARC at the request of the Senator’s Office and hosted by the Wildwood School. The Able Act would allow establishment of tax free accounts to help meet the expenses incurred by people with disabilities.
Following the press conference Senator Schumer met privately with Mary Ann Allen of Wildwood; Marc Brandt and Ben Golden of NYSARC; Susan Constantino of CP of NYS; and, Peter Pierre of the IAC. The focus of the meeting was the recent announcement that CMS would attempt to recoup over $1.25 billion in overpayments to New York State for State Fiscal Year 10-11. The overpayments are a consequence of the controversial developmental center rate methodology which resulted in cuts to voluntary OPWDD programs totaling $90 million in last year’s budget.
The meeting focused on the best strategies to minimize any harm to people with developmental disabilities from any federal disallowances. Senator Schumer listened closely to specific suggestions and indicated in no uncertain terms that he would take them up directly with CMS.
Senator Schumer was very sensitive to concerns about need for additional funding to meet unmet needs. He urged advocates to focus on new funding which the State recently realized as a result of settlements with various banks.
Senator Schumer displayed a very genuine compassion for people with developmental disabilities. He gave us as much time as was necessary to thoroughly discuss the issues at hand. He was very appreciative of the work done by NYSARC and recognized the longstanding relationship between his office and our Association.
The press conference was packed with staff and participants from various Capital District NYSARC chapters including Fulton, Warren-Washington-Albany, Schenectady and Rensselaer. We extend our thanks to all of them for making the trip.