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NYSID News Blog

August 1, 2017

Everyone’s a Winner at NYSID’s Autism Awareness Night

Category: General — NYSID @ 12:37 pm

NYSID proudly sponsored Autism Awareness Night with NYS Assemblymember Angelo Santabarbara and the Amsterdam Mohawks, promoting acceptance of individuals living on the autism spectrum.

NYS Assemblymember Angelo Santabarbara and his son, Michael, who lives on the autism spectrum, threw out the first pitch for NYSID's Autism Awareness Night with the Amsterdam Mohawks

A highlight of the evening was Assemblymember Santabarbara and his son, Michael, who lives on the autism spectrum, throwing out the first pitch, to the roar of an appreciative crowd.

This marks the second time the pair have delivered a perfect strike for NYSID on the baseball diamond; in July 2016, they threw out the first pitch for NYSID’s fifth annual NYSID Night at “The Joe” with the Tri-City Valley Cats at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium.

Folks from NYSID member agencies Liberty ARCLexington – Fulton County Chapter of NYSARC, Inc. and Schenectady Arc, along with the Autism Society of the Greater Capital Region, joined NYSID for the July 26 Autism Awareness Night game between the Mohawks and the Glens Falls Dragons at Shuttleworth Park.

NYSID's Autism Awareness Night promoted acceptance of individuals living on the autism spectrum, with several NYSID member agencies in attendance

Our guests watched the game from their seats in the Veteran’s Deck and Kids Zone down the first baseline in right field, and they participated in on-field activities during the game. Many wore shirts representing their agency in a show of solidarity for the event.

“As the father of a son with autism, I know firsthand the importance of an incredible resource like NYSID,” Assemblymember Santabarbara (D-Rotterdam) said. “For more than 40 years, NYSID has been there for our family, friends and neighbors with disabilities, providing job opportunities and the independence that makes a difference in the lives of so many.

“In the New York State Assembly, I’m proud to champion legislation and support funding that helps find solutions for the more than 128,000 New Yorkers living with developmental disabilities, and I’m proud to support great partners like NYSID that are working toward the same goal. This year, our first Autism Action Night with the Amsterdam Mohawks was a tremendous success, raising awareness and support for local families in our community through the power of sports.”

Lexington – Fulton County Chapter of NYSARC, Inc. was one of several NYSID member agencies that joined us for Autism Awareness Night

With one in every 68 children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders, New York State must encourage job opportunities for these individuals to live as future independent adults, according to Ron Romano, NYSID president & CEO.

“We thank Assemblymember Santabarbara for his participation in our inaugural Autism Awareness Night and his commitment to bettering New York and strengthening workforce opportunities for his son, Michael, and others in the autism community,” he said.

Amsterdam defeated Glens Falls, 8-0. As an added bonus, former Amsterdam Mohawk Dan Zlotnick delivered a guitar performance before and after the game. It also was Art Night, Best Sign Night and an Overnight Car Giveaway. Thanks again to everyone for participating in NYSID’s Autism Awareness Night!

July 14, 2017

Sixth Annual NYSID Night at “The Joe” Was a Grand Slam!

Category: General — NYSID @ 1:41 pm

Thanks to everyone who joined us for our sixth annual NYSID Night at “The Joe” in appreciation for all of the services NYSID staff and our member agencies provide.

Tori Harn, NYSID logistics specialist, was a proud Mom during NYSID Night at "The Joe," as her children, Quinton and Caylee, threw out the first pitch

We were joined at Joseph L. Bruno Stadium – aka “The Joe,” on the campus of Hudson Valley Community College – by folks from the Capital Region Miracle League, with whom we worked on NYSID WORKS! 2.

Several Capital Region NYSID member agencies also attended NYSID Night at “The Joe,” including: Catholic Charities, Northeast Career Planning, Rehabilitation Support Services, Saratoga Bridges, Schenectady Arc and The Arc of Rensselaer.

The children of Tori Harn, NYSID logistics specialist, threw out the first pitch. John Schwartz, a young man with disabilities from the Center for Disability Services, sang the National Anthem.

NYSID staff and members agencies represented their respective organizations, while also getting into the spirit of Community Heroes/Superhero Night, as the Tri-City ValleyCats faced the State College Spikes, capped off with postgame fireworks.

Pamela Polacsek, communications specialist for Saratoga Bridges, said NYSID Night at “The Joe” is an annual summertime highlight for folks at the agency.

“Individuals from Saratoga Bridges who have been able to attend games at ‘The Joe’ thoroughly enjoy watching the ValleyCats play,” she said. ” We are most appreciative to NYSID for graciously providing tickets to us, as well as to many other agencies across the Capital Region. It is always great fun to be at the ballpark, no matter who wins. Thank you, NYSID, for this opportunity!”

July 11, 2017

NYSID Members Walk the Walk in NYC’s Disability Pride Parade

Category: General — NYSID @ 4:54 pm

New York City proudly continued its celebration of disability rights and inclusion with New York City’s 3rd Annual Disability Pride Parade, and Spectrum Designs Foundation played a prominent role in the inspirational event.

Pictured l-r: Tim Howe, Kevin Lanese, Kathleen Lanese and Brendan Lanese represent Spectrum Designs Foundation during New York City’s 3rd Annual Disability Pride Parade

The NYSID member agency has provided the t-shirts since the Disability Pride Parade began in 2015, according to Tim Howe, chief operating officer of Spectrum Designs Foundation.

“Over the years, the number of shirts we provide has varied from 300 to 500, as the parade has grown and rapidly expanded each year,” he said. “The most important element, for us, is a short phrase on the back of every shirt that reads, ‘Shirts Printed by Proud Adults with Disabilities at Spectrum Designs.’” This year’s t-shirts also contain the slogan, “Don’t Hide the Pride” and “NYC Disability Pride Parade.”

The Disability Pride Parade is a collaboration between the New York City Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities and Disability Pride NYC. Participants marched on July 9 from Union Square Park to Madison Square Park, with an excellent lineup of music, great food and informational resources available.

Several NYSID member agencies participated as marchers, including: AHRC New York CityBrooklyn Community ServicesContemporary Guidance Services, Inc.FedcapGoodwill Industries of Greater New York & Northern New Jersey, Inc.Lifespire; Spectrum Designs; The Viscardi Center, Inc.; and YAI.

Fedcap, The Viscardi Center and YAI also served as sponsors.

Josh from Spectrum Designs is all smiles as he holds the t-shirt designed by the agency for New York City's 3rd Annual Disability Pride Parade

The t-shirts are counted and sorted when they arrive at Spectrum from the supplier, then printed front and back,  neck tagged, hang tagged and boxed for shipping. During a typical shift pattern, six to eight employees with disabilities work on the shop floor at a time, and multiple individuals take over jobs as the day progresses, which means 12-14 employees with disabilities work on the t-shirts throughout the course of the job.

“The idea of disability pride sits at the core of everything we do,” Howe said. “Every time we showcase a difficult, detailed design and high quality craftsmanship, it shows that individuals with disabilities are capable of accurate, intricate and highly skilled work. Being involved with the parade in such a high profile way stands as testament to our shared commitment to promote inclusion, awareness and visibility of people with disabilities, and redefine public perception of disability.”

Howe marched in the parade with Brendan Lanese, a Spectrum employee on the autism spectrum; Brendan’s brother, Kevin, who is also on the autism spectrum; and Kathleen Lanese, their mother and a board member of the Autism Speaks Long Island Chapter. Their shirts read: “Wear the Change You Want in the World.”

Brendan Lanese says the parade showcases the abilities that he, his brother and fellow individuals living on the autism spectrum possess.

“The parade was important, not just for people who have disabilities, but to teach other people about them, too,” he said. “Sometimes, you can’t even tell right off the bat that someone has a disability. Like me… I have autism. At Spectrum, we show that just because someone is different doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of great things.”

Congratulations to all NYSID member agencies who participated in New York City’s 3rd Annual Disability Pride Parade!

June 26, 2017

Journey Along the Erie Canal Gives Meaning to Miles Across NYS

Category: General — NYSID @ 1:18 pm

For the fifth consecutive year, John Robinson and Doug Hamlin led Journey Along the Erie Canal, a 370-mile, 12-day bicycle ride across upstate New York via the scenic and historic Erie Canalway Trail. NYSID was once again the proud video sponsor.

Pictured l-r: Tom Occhiogrosso, NYSID, and John Robinson, Our Ability, pose during a sendoff event at Liberty ARC on Day 11 of Journey Along the Erie Canal

Journey Along the Erie Canal began June 26 in Buffalo’s Canal Side Park and concluded July 7 at Jennings Landing in Albany. As the tour made its way across New York, numerous NYSID member agencies and other supporters of inclusive communities for the people NYSID serves joined John and Doug for parts of the trip, as the two men rode using specialized hand cycles.

John and Doug are partners in Glenmont-based Our Ability, a network of consulting, public speaking, recruitment and professional services that champions the inclusivity of people with disabilities in the workplace.

“NYSID was proud to support John, Doug and their fellow riders on their fifth annual Journey ride,” said Ron Romano, NYSID president & CEO. “Over the years, this dedicated team has met up with NYSID member agencies from Buffalo to Albany, cycling together and celebrating inclusive opportunities for all New Yorkers. NYSID was privileged to join with the NYS Canal Corporation, NYS Office for People with Developmental Disabilities, and other sponsors of this motivating example of giving meaning to miles.”

Finger Lakes TimesSpectrum News, The Daily GazetteThe Recorder and WNYT NewsChannel 13 were among the media outlets that covered the Journey.

Born as a congenital amputee without full arms and legs, John overcame countless obstacles to become a successful businessman, husband, father and inspirational speaker. In 2011 he founded Our Ability with Doug, a 28-year veteran of the software industry who is also disabled as the result of an accident in 1983.

“Each year our Journey aims to raise awareness of the ability inside all people with disabilities,” John said. “Five years ago, our dream was to increase employment for people with disabilities in New York State. In part, our Journey has achieved this goal. We have businesses who work with us and employ people with disabilities. It is a dream come true.”

NYSID staff participated in the final two legs of Journey Along the Erie Canal: Day 11 (July 6) in Amsterdam featuring Liberty ARC, where we cheered the departing riders; and Day 12 (July 7) to welcome the riders upon their arrival in Albany’s Jennings Landing park.

NYSID member agencies Community Services for the Developmentally Disabled; Heritage CentersHuman TechnologiesLexington – Fulton County Chapter of NYSARC, Inc.Saratoga BridgesSchenectady ArcThe Arc of Genesee Orleans; Warren, Washington & Albany Counties Chapter of NYSARC, Inc.; and Wayne ARC also participated in the Journey.

This year’s ride highlighted the growth of the 30 business-member New York Business Leadership Network (NYBLN), a coalition among businesses in New York State interested in both hiring and building supplier diversity of businesses owned by individuals with disabilities.

Our Ability also rode in support of Governor Cuomo’s recently proposed project to complete the Hudson River Valley Greenway and Erie Canalway trails, making the waterway accessible to all.

Congratulations to John, Doug, their entourage and all NYSID member agencies and staff who participated in Journey Along the Erie Canal!

June 15, 2017

My WORK, My SERVICES, My CHOICE: NYSID and Workers With Disabilities Visit Washington for New York Day on Capitol Hill

Category: General — NYSID @ 12:50 pm

Preferred Source workers from across New York State joined NYSID staff on visits to members of the US Senate and House of Representatives in Washington DC to advocate for choice in employment opportunities and service providers during New York Day on Capitol Hill on June 14.

Pictured l-r: Congressman Paul Tonko is all smiles with Amy Levandosky and Russell Porath from NYSID member agency Liberty ARC during New York Day on Capitol Hill

Six NYSID member agencies — AHRC New York City, The Arc of Livingston-Wyoming, Center for Disability Services, Heritage Centers, Liberty ARC and The Osborne Association – including several individuals with disabilities who have been honored by NYSID in recent years, accompanied NYSID staff to our nation’s capital.

Donald McCall, a porter for the Metropolitan Transit Authority through AHRC New York City’s Hudson River Services, proudly participated in New York Day on Capitol Hill with his fellow Preferred Source workers. “We have to spread our voice to keep the government from cutting our programs,” he said. “I like my job because it puts money in my pocket and helps to pay my bills and rent. Without these programs, where am I going to go?”

Specifically, the New York contingent asked legislators to assist with an amendment of the definition of “competitive integrated employment” and recognize the right to employment choice in the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) regulations, published August 19, 2016 by the Departments of Labor and Education.

They also urged legislators to inform the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to clarify how in-facility settings are compliant with the Medicaid Home & Community Based Services (HCBS) rule so facility-based programs may continue as a services choice for New Yorkers with disabilities.

Without amending WIOA or clarifying HCBS, jobs and services for NYSID Preferred Source workers across New York State could be in jeopardy.

NYSID participants included Ron Romano, Corey Heritage, Jennifer Lawrence and Megan Tatro. They were joined by the following member agency participants:

AHRC New York City: Donald McCall, Kalsang Nyima, Barbara Olk, Steve Towler, Benjamin Zisfein

The Arc of Livingston-Wyoming: Robert Douglass, David France, Kellie Kennedy

Center for Disability Services: Jahseim Dobbs, Ki Whaley, Rich Whaley

Heritage Centers: David Foster, Kathleen Medley, Tiana Medley, Romental Ray, Clarence Rose, Liz Torres

Liberty ARC: Lisa Butterfield, Dawn Jacksland, Amy Levandosky, Russell Porath

The Osborne Association: Carolina Dyer

Among the legislators/staffers with whom the NYSID contingent visited: Senator Chuck SchumerSenator Kirsten GillibrandRep. Chris CollinsRep. Adriano EspaillatRep. Brian Higgins; Rep. Peter King; Rep. Jerrold NadlerRep. Tom ReedRep. Elise Stefanik; and Rep. Paul Tonko.

“The differently-abled are one of my favorite communities because it’s about courage and meeting challenges,” Congressman Tonko said. “We’re all challenged in life, and no one teaches me that lesson better than the differently-abled community, as to how to meet those challenges and make life work abundantly well.”

Steve Towler, assistant executive director, AHRC New York City, emphasized the importance of choice in employment opportunities as it pertains to WIOA. “The Preferred Source Program is essential and provides nearly 500 life-changing, well-paying jobs,” he said. “If WIOA goes through as written, people like Donald McCall would lose their job coach. The job Donald McCall is now doing would be at risk. This would undermine the success of hundreds of workers.”

Several NYSID member agency participants in New York Day on Capitol Hill have been honored by NYSID in recent years for employment excellence on Preferred Source contracts:

Richard Whaley, a mail processing clerk at the Center for Disability Services, offered heartfelt perspective on his Preferred Source job and his right to employment choice. “My job really helps me personally with my bills and helps me be a normal person in society,” he said. “I really think we need a choice and need these jobs to stay open.”

A 2015 Joslin Outstanding Performer, Rich received special recognition at NYSID’s 2016 Annual Meeting for advocating toward keeping these job choices and bringing to life the importance of his job for himself, his family and his community. He had testified at the NYS Procurement Council meeting about his mail processing job, as Preferred Source mail processing services were coming under scrutiny.

Kathleen Medley, a day porter at the Buffalo City Court Building, was named 2014 NYSID Employee of the Year working on Heritage Centers’ contracts. Last year, she was selected to work at the Buffalo City Court Building, a prestigious and long-standing NYSID Preferred Source contract.

“A job coach taught me how to look for jobs and guided me through life,” she said. “I provide for my whole family with my job. People with disabilities work hard. We want our children to have a normal life like everyone else.”

David France, 2014 Joslin Outstanding Performer, typically juggles multiple community cleaning jobs, including the NYS Department of Transportation (DOT)/Livingston County site and the Finger Lakes DDSO Dogwood Day Services location.

For more photos and videos from New York Day on Capitol Hill, visit NYSID on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn. Thank you to our member agencies, Preferred Source workers and federal legislators for participating in our hugely successful New York Day on Capitol Hill.

June 14, 2017

Stratton VA Medical Center, Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, Battle Buddy Centers Highlight NYSID Veterans’ Summit

Category: General — NYSID @ 6:30 pm

On the day the U.S. Army celebrated its 242nd birthday and the nation observed Flag Day, NYSID hosted its quarterly Veterans’ Summit at its Albany office. Summit presenters included:

Penny Deasy and Maureen Corbett, Albany Stratton VA Medical Center, were among the presenters for NYSID's recent Veterans' Summit

Maureen Corbett, vocational program manager; and Penny Deasy, social worker, Compensated Work Therapy (CWT) vocational programs, Albany Stratton VA Medical Center

Emil Baker, Capital Region Chairman, Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR). During a previous Summit, he presented a framed Statement of Support for the Guard and Reserve that was signed by Ron Romano, NYSID president & CEO.

Patrick Massaro, coordinator of military and veterans student services, SUNY Canton; and Ben Parker, veteran and military services coordinator, SUNY Oswego

Among the legislators/staffers and NYS officials in attendance:

Congressman Michael McNulty (D-Green Island), who served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1989 to 2009 and the New York State Assembly from 1983 to 1988

Todd Rosenfield, project manager, NYS Division of Veterans’ Affairs, on behalf of Governor Andrew Cuomo

Kenneth Williams, director of the Division of Service Disabled Veterans’ Business Development within the New York State Office of General Services

Vinnie Nicosia, deputy director of operations, on behalf of Senator George Amedore (R/C-46), member of the NYS Senate Committee on Veterans, Homeland Security and Military Affairs

Summit participants included New York State government agencies, not-for-profits, for-profit businesses, veterans’ service organizations, Wounded Warriors, institutions of higher learning, and rehabilitation organizations, including NYSID members.

Rich Tanchyk, assistant vice president, H & V Collision Center, attended his first NYSID Veterans’ Summit to promote a veteran car donation this summer. He was impressed with the veterans’ organizations represented at the Summit that assist  business owners supporting veterans’ causes.

“The Veterans’ Summit provides an open panel for discussion and useful information between business owners and veteran organizations,” he said. “To any business with a desire to support our veterans, it will be time well spent. Highly recommended!”

June 8, 2017

NYSID Warehouse Program – “We Deliver!” – Hits It Out of the Park

Category: General — NYSID @ 7:57 pm

More than a decade since its debut shipment, NYSID’s warehousing center has proven to be a successful example of member agency cooperation and customer satisfaction.

NYSID's distribution center occupies 50,000 square feet, with $26.2 million in sales and 763,441 cases shipped in 2016

“Establishing a warehouse and distribution center over a decade ago is one of the best things that NYSID ever did in support of its commodity-producing members and customers,” said Ron Romano, NYSID’s president & CEO. “It shows our level of commitment to the employment of individuals with significant challenges.”

As NYSID explored different ways to improve its operation and increase its bottom line, the “We Deliver” warehouse initiative took flight. Liberty ARC in Amsterdam was the original warehouse site, and staff initially were employed by Liberty before transitioning to NYSID employment.

Four member agencies producing 100 different commodities initially were involved, according to Tim Mott, NYSID’s vice president of operations. In NYSID’s first three decades of operation, an order would come into NYSID’s customer service department, and it may have had five different line items involving five different member agencies and generating five different purchase orders.

Sharon Alleyne, NYSID’s eCommerce product information coordinator, was a customer service representative at the time and recalls the frustration felt by both customers and NYSID. “There were times when days would pass before we could respond to a status update on an order,” she said. “We would need to call multiple member agencies and wait to hear back from them before responding to the customer. Non-standardized packing slips often resulted in confusion as to whether an item was missing, on back order, or if it was coming from another member agency.”

Mary Crowley, NYSID’s senior accounts receivable specialist, also was a customer service representative at the time and knows what a cumbersome process it was. “I remember customers looking for rush orders on items like diapers, which the members weren’t always able to accommodate right away,” she said. “Having commodities stocked at our warehouse helps customers receive what they need in a more efficient and timely manner.”

How Times Have Changed

Today, NYSID’s distribution center occupies 50,000 square feet in Johnstown. Nearly 40 member agencies provide products on more than 700 commodities. In calendar year 2016, distribution center products sales totaled $26.2 million and 763,441 cases, with 15.7 million pounds of products shipped.

One manager and five material handlers work at the distribution center, while one supervisor and five customer service representatives work at NYSID’s headquarters in Albany. With the distribution center in place, NYSID oversees product sales from start to finish. “By taking control of inventory, we have virtually everything under one roof and we’ve consolidated shipping,” Mott said. “Now an order comes into our customer service department, the order goes to the warehouse and ships that day.”

In this 2009 file photo, Doug Chamberlain, John Lee and Sharon Alleyne pose inside NYSID's distribution center in Johnstown

While certain products, including apparel, drug test kits and food, are shipped by member agencies, the majority of products ship directly from NYSID’s distribution center.

NYSID member agencies, customers and NYSID itself have reaped the benefits of the distribution center, according to Mott. “For the members, it’s streamlined and simplified their internal processes,” he said. “They were dealing with everything on a transactional basis and generating a lot of paperwork. Now, the member agency only deals with one purchase order, they fill it, we pay them and it’s done. It’s also helped members from a production standpoint because they can coordinate work schedules and anticipate fluctuations in work flow.”

Thanks to the distribution center, orders are consolidated in one shipment and shipped more quickly, which streamlines customers’ operations and ultimately benefits NYSID, in the long run. Visit NYSID’s e-commerce website to view or order products.

The Arc Otsego works closely with NYSID’s warehouse program to maintain a continuous supply of quality incontinence products for shipment, according to Kevin Scott, The Arc Otsego’s business development and sales coordinator.

“This is what drives our workers and creates the jobs that produce these products every day,” he said. “Understanding customers’ requirements to readily have access to products and being responsive to that need is fundamental to NYSID’s core business philosophy.”

The distribution center crew includes (front row, l-r): Mike Pepper, Terry Pedrick, Mike Ficili; and (back row, l-r): Ryan Bellows, Doug Chamberlain and Tom Lalla, manager

Mott praised NYSID’s distribution center crew and customer service team for their diligence and professionalism. “Our folks do a great job, in terms of productivity and timeliness,” Mott said. “We ship 97 percent of all orders that day, and our accuracy rate has been excellent. We’ve only had two warehouse managers, John Lee and Tom Lalla, ensuring the operation flows smoothly.”

Doug Chamberlain, material handler at NYSID’s distribution center, has friends and family who live on the autism spectrum or have other developmental disabilities, and he knows the importance of the “psychic wage” that comes from meaningful employment. “I’m grateful that my job at the warehouse has a positive impact on someone’s daily life,” he said.

Mott is proud of NYSID’s distribution center crew and customer service department for its focus on advancing employment and other opportunities for individuals with disabilities. “When I talk to my staff about sales, it’s about maintaining or growing business to create more opportunities for people with disabilities,” he said. “That’s why it’s important for us to do a good job, be responsive, and meet the needs of our customers. For us, everything we do is about creating those opportunities.”

May 22, 2017

Family Focus and Meaningful Work Promote Mental Health

Category: General — NYSID @ 12:33 pm

Ricky Bernstein ultimately has made up his mind to gain control of his life, from a personal and professional standpoint. He is one of several William B. Joslin Award recipients who has overcome mental illness and become a successful, satisfied worker on a NYSID Preferred Source contract.

Ricky Bernstein from Northeast Career Planning balances work and life to be the best Preferred Source worker, husband and father he can be

Ricky began working with Northeast Career Planning (NCP) in its School to Work Program at the age of 17. Soon after working with NCP, Ricky became employed at McDonald’s, while still attending school. Initially, he found the necessary balance to keep up with his school and work demands. However, the pressure mounted on both fronts, and after six months, Ricky resigned from his position.

Around the same time, Ricky began to realize that his mental illness was affecting his level of functioning. His home life, not without chaos, was a major contributing factor to the symptoms he was experiencing. As a result, he made a life-altering decision to find his own apartment.

Ricky was a senior in high school when he secured an apartment. During the time when most teenagers are focused on their final exams and completing graduation, Ricky was dealing with the reality that he and his girlfriend were expecting their first child. Despite the tremendous amount of stress that Ricky was experiencing, he managed to graduate with a Regents diploma, two months before his daughter was born.

For the past two years, Ricky has worked successfully as a part-time janitor in the New York State Education Department Building through the NYSID Preferred Source Program. In addition to his part-time job in the NYSID State Ed contract, he maintains a full-time job at Albany Medical Center, sometimes working in excess of 60 hours per week.

He has not let his struggles deter him from reaching his personal and employment goals. Ricky got married in 2014, and he and his wife just had their second daughter.

For nearly 70 years, Mental Health America (MHA) and its affiliates across the country have led the observance of May is Mental Health Month by reaching millions of people through the media, local events and screenings. MHA offers Mental Health Month 2017 toolkit materials to help members of your community:

Understand how certain seemingly common behaviors are risk factors for, or indicators of mental health or substance use disorders

Start talking about mental health Before Stage 4

Assess their own mental health through use of MHA’s screening tools

NYSID celebrates the efforts of MHA and our member agencies and corporate partners to help increase opportunities for individuals living with mental illness.

May 17, 2017

NYSID, SEFCU Celebrate NYSID WORKS! 2 at Capital Region Miracle League in Collaborative, Community Service Effort

Category: General — NYSID @ 12:43 pm

Spring cleaning recently took on a whole new meaning, as NYSID and SEFCU beautified Jaime M. Adams Field, a ball field for individuals with disabilities, on a glorious May afternoon at The Capital Region Miracle League in East Greenbush during NYSID WORKS! 2.

Volunteers from NYSID, SEFCU and Schenectady ARC, decked out in gold shirts provided by Spectrum Designs Foundation, pose for a photo during NYSID WORKS! 2

Nearly 40 volunteers, including individuals with disabilities, lent a hand with this beautification project, in collaboration with several NYSID member agencies.

Spectrum News and CBS6 News both covered the event, and Ron Romano, NYSID president & CEO, appeared live during Spectrum News’ noon newscast.

“This day of community appreciation was our way of saying thanks and giving back, by showcasing the skills and talents of individuals with disabilities from our member agencies, and demonstrating how New York State benefits from their inclusion in our workforce,” Romano said.

With the league’s Opening Day on May 20, NYSID WORKS! 2 was both a timely community service project and a touching reminder of NYSID’s new mission: “Advancing employment and other opportunities for individuals with disabilities.”

Volunteers placed a remembrance bench and planted flowers in memory of Jaime Adams, who served as the inspiration for the Miracle League facility and was the daughter of Miracle League founder Burke Adams. Jaime Adams passed away in 2016.

Established in 2009, Jaime M. Adams Field is the first multi-sport facility in the United States designed specifically for athletes with special needs. The Field hosts baseball, football, soccer and track & field, providing a full-service athletic home for the Capital Region’s athletes with special needs.

“It means a lot to have the community come out and get involved in Jaime’s memory,” Burke Adams said. “This never could’ve happened without everyone’s help, and I’m sure Jaime’s looking down and smiling on everyone.”

Schenectady ARC contributed expertise from its horticulture program, as volunteers refreshed plantings around the Capital Region Miracle League sign on Route 151, placed and planted large flower pots near the ball field fence, and replenished the parking lot with stones.

Donna Vincent, horticulture coordinator at Schenectady Arc, described NYSID WORKS! 2 as a win-win on several notes. “We’re showing teamwork, being outside, working in the sun together with other people and helping the community,” she said. “The fact that we’re doing it with NYSID and its members and in support of athletes with disabilities makes it even better.”

Volunteers also unloaded, assembled and stained 15 picnic tables fully accessible to individuals with disabilities that were manufactured and delivered by Essex Arc/Mountain Lake Services, to replace the league’s current tables.

NYSID and SEFCU volunteers assemble 15 picnic tables fully accessible to individuals with disabilities that were delivered by Essex Arc/Mountain Lake Services

Tom Herbst, liquid investments manager at SEFCU, has been involved in the Capital Region Miracle League since its inception. He grew up with Jaime Adams and said she, her family and everyone involved in the organization would be so pleased with the outcome of NYSID WORKS! 2.

“Jaime never said a word, but she touched everyone’s hearts,” Herbst said. “The Capital Region Miracle League is an easy organization to support, and Burke and his wife are angels in and of themselves. Everybody deserves sports, and that’s what the Miracle League does. Most of the volunteers are parents of the kids, and for NYSID and SEFCU to collaborate on NYSID WORKS! 2 is amazing. They’ve really changed the face of the field, and the parents deserve this as much as the kids.”

Puzzles Bakery & Café, a Schenectady-based social enterprise that gives adults with disabilities opportunities for personal growth, as well as a source of income, social interaction, and a sense of purpose, provided food for the event.

Volunteers wore t-shirts designed by Spectrum Designs, a Long Island-based apparel customization shop that provides gainful employment and meaningful work opportunities to individuals with autism.

NYSID coordinated its first NYSID WORKS! in September 2015 to thank legislators, business and community leaders across New York State for creating employment opportunities for New Yorkers with disabilities.

Donna Witko, senior contract administration specialist at NYSID, planted flowers and spread mulch with Mike from Schenectady ARC during NYSID WORKS! 2. They loved working together to make Jaime M. Adams Field even more beautiful than before.

“Mike designed all of this, I’m under his tutelage,” Witko said. “It’s a beautiful day and we’re having a lot of fun. NYSID is used to doing these types of events, but this is one of the best events we’ve ever had.”

May 10, 2017

NYSID Participates in “Town Hall” with Office of General Services

Category: General — NYSID @ 1:16 pm

At a “Town Hall” held in Albany during NY GovBuy, NYSID members from across the state called upon the New York State Office of General Services (OGS) to improve the price application approval process for Preferred Source contracts, which has been both minimally defined and cumbersome for several years. Left unchanged, the current process could result in the loss of much needed jobs and economic opportunities for New Yorkers with disabilities.

Michelle Wolfe, The Arc of Madison Cortland, testifies about the importance of Preferred Source employment during the "Town Hall" with OGS

During the May 3 “Town Hall,” NYSID members and individuals with disabilities who work on the Preferred Source contracts described to OGS how the uncertainty and vagueness in the price application approval process is making employment for New Yorkers with disabilities even more difficult.

The Rome Sentinel reported on the “Town Hall.”

Michelle Wolfe, an employee from The Arc of Madison Cortland, urged OGS to remedy its Preferred Source contract price approval process so as to provide continued employment for her and her fellow New Yorkers with disabilities.

“Preferred Source contracts are extremely important to people with disabilities and their livelihood,” Wolfe said. “I want you to realize that every delay has a huge negative impact on people. Real people with disabilities.”

Despite the success of the Preferred Source Program, the employment rate for individuals with disabilities in New York remains unacceptably high, and 2016 saw a decline in jobs for these individuals once thriving on NYSID contracts.

Members of NYSID’s board of directors and executive management from NYSID member agencies raised concerns about specific issues regarding the process, including OGS’ interpretation of what constitutes prevailing market pricing, engaging an independent party to establish market comparables when necessary, and engaging sub-contractors on Preferred Source contracts.

To help address these urgent concerns and improve the Preferred Source Program, NYS Senator Catharine Young (R/I/C-Olean) and Assemblymember Aileen Gunther (D/I/WF-Forestburgh) recently introduced legislation to protect the social and economic goals for individuals with disabilities that the Preferred Source Program serves.

Specifically, the legislation addresses the above issues and looks for OGS review for services that have a value over $200,000. It also establishes a defined period of 90 days for the price approval process to be completed.

NYSID has created a sample letter for individuals to customize in their outreach to NYS legislators and committee leaders encouraging their support for this legislation.

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