CP and other advocates urge Governor to sign bill expanding job opportunities

Preferred Source Modernization Bill passed Senate and Assembly Unanimously

Organizations representing New Yorkers with developmental, intellectual and physical disabilities, including those who are blind, sent a letter (below) to Gov. Kathy Hochul urging her to sign S.7578C/A.8549C, also known as the Preferred Source Modernization Bill.

The bill unanimously passed the Senate and Assembly at the end of session and would make the first significant updates in New York’s Preferred Source Program since its inception in 1975. The program was created in the aftermath of the Willowbrook scandal that exposed New York’s poor treatment of persons with disabilities.

The Preferred Source Modernization Bill:

  • Modernizes multiple terms within the Preferred Source statute including references to “workshops” and “severely” disabled.
  • Simplifies the process for approving Preferred Source contracts to make it closer to other diversity and inclusion contracting initiatives. Right now, the OGS review threshold is $50,000, a level set 14 years ago. The Rockefeller Institute recommended it be raised to $250,000. The bill raises it to $100,000.
  • Expands employment opportunities for people with disabilities by establishing that the disabled ratio required on a given contract be performed by people with disabilities from 75 percent to 50 percent. This recognizes the fact that much of the employment now takes place in community-based settings with competitive wages where persons with disabilities work side by side with people without disabilities.

Letter follows:

July 12, 2022

The Honorable Kathy Hochul

Executive Chamber

State Capitol

Albany, NY 12224


Dear Governor Hochul:

The undersigned organizations, through our member agencies, represent the majority of New Yorkers with a developmental, intellectual or physical disability, including those who are blind. We write today to respectfully urge you to sign S.7578C/A.8549C, also known as the Preferred Source Modernization Bill, which unanimously passed the Senate and Assembly this session.

This legislation brings New York’s landmark program of job support for persons with disabilities into the 21st Century. As you know, the Preferred Source Program was created in 1975 after the Willowbrook scandal. In one fell swoop, then-Gov. Hugh Carey and the Legislature turned New York’s treatment of persons with disabilities from national disgrace to national model. Only minimal changes have been made in the program since 1975.

S.7578C/A.8549C modernizes multiple terms within the preferred source statute including outdated references to “workshops” and “severely” disabled. It also creates new thresholds for what percentage of a Preferred Source contract must be performed by disabled, or otherwise qualified, persons to receive Preferred Source status. The threshold for OGS review is increased for the first time in 14 years.   Finally, it increases opportunities for competitive integrated employment.

By signing this unanimously passed bill, you will be strengthening the Preferred Source Program so it can support more people and turbo-charge its economic benefits for the state while remaining under the watchful eye of regulators and policy makers.

All these changes to the program were called for in two exhaustive reports by the Rockefeller Institute of Government (2019 and 2021)

You have clearly demonstrated your commitment to New Yorkers with disabilities, notably by your budget priorities, administrative appointments, and creation of the state’s first Chief Disabilities Officer. We and the people our organizations support thank you not only for your awareness of these issues but for your action on them.

Signing the Preferred Source Modernization Bill would build on this record and add to New York’s proper standing as a model of support for people with disabilities.


Mike Alvaro

President & CEO, Cerebral Palsy Associations of New York State

Christopher T. Burke

Executive Director, NYS Preferred Source Program for New Yorkers who are Blind

Erik Geizer

CEO, The Arc New York

Russell Snaith

New York Alliance for Developmental Disabilities

Tom McAlvanah

Executive Director, Interagency Council of Developmental Disabilities Agencies

Maureen O’Brien

President & CEO, New York State Industries for the Disabled

Michael Seereiter

President & CEO, New York Alliance for Inclusion and Innovation

NYC Ballet hosting FREE access workshop on July 16

New York City Ballet (NYCB) artists will conduct a dance a workshop for children with disabilities on Saturday, July 16, from at 11 a.m. at the SPAC School for the Arts.
This one-hour workshop will be co-led by a pair of NYCB Dancers and will include a warm-up and choreography inspired by NYCB’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Modifications and movement options will be offered throughout, and movers of all abilities and their siblings are welcome.
The workshop is followed by the 2 p.m. performance of NYCB’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at Saratoga Performing Arts Center!
Just like last year, for this workshop we are encouraging a parent/guardian of the participant to join the workshop in offering support for their child.
Please note: Only sign up the participant on the registration page. Up to three family members/friends will be allowed to accompany each participant to the workshop and the NYCB performance.

List: CP State gets bills passed in both Houses

CP State monitors hundreds of bills every year, some of which we support and advocate for, some of which we oppose and advocate against, and others we simply watch. This year we were very successful in getting our priority bills passed by both Houses and none of the bills that we strongly opposed passed both Houses – thanks to Affiliate and our colleagues’ advocacy!

Below are bills of interest that passed both Houses and have either been signed by the Governor or are awaiting action. CP State has concerns with a few of the bills but supports or strongly supports most of the bills listed. We will keep you apprised of additional advocacy needed and the Governor’s action on these bills.


Supported Decision Making/OPWDD Program Bill #3 — S.7107-B (Mannion)/A.8586-B (Simon) identifies Supported Decision-Making as a less restrictive alternative to guardianship and to create additional support and autonomy to individuals needing assistance to make decisions for themselves. Creates obligations and corresponding immunity from liability for third parties to effectuate supported decisions made with a Supported Decision-Making Agreement. Allows regulations to be promulgated by state agencies serving a myriad of individuals who may benefit by less restrictive support, such as the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD), Office of Children and Family Services and the Office for the Aging.   The bill would be effective 90 days after being signed by the Governor. CP Strongly supported.

24-7 OPWDD Hotline for Care Coordination Pilot — A.7357-A (Abinanti)/S.6274-B (Mannion) requires OPWDD to establish and administer a three-year pilot program establishing a 24-hour per day hotline where people with developmental disabilities and their families can get non-emergency, non-medical assistance to provide help, referral services, and counseling. Requires hotline employees to be knowledgeable. Hotline must be accessible for people with disabilities and for the six most common languages spoken in New York other than English. Requires a report to the legislature regarding the program’s effectiveness. Requires a report submitted to the Governor and legislature on or before the conclusion of the program evaluating its effectiveness. The law would be effective 90-days after being signed by the Governor.

Eligibility Determination Time Limit — S.8442 (Mannion)/A.9920 (Abinanti) requires OPWDD to process eligibility determinations within 120 days of receipt. Provides for an exception in cases where the application is not reasonably clear, omits required info, or when the application is potentially fraudulent. In cases where the application is not clear, OPWDD must request the missing info and notify in writing within 30 days of receipt of the application. Additionally requires OPWDD to report on a quarterly basis data on eligibility and service authorization applications to the DDAC, Governor, Chair of Senate and Assembly Disabilities Committee. This law shall take effect 180 days after the Governor’s signature.

Establishes an OPWDD Group Home Oversight Committee — S.7377 (Mayer)/A.9162 (Santabarbara) creates a workgroup of 20 legislative appointees and no Governor’s appointees to oversee OPWDD group homes, hold hearings, and provide input to the OPWDD Commissioner. Defines group home as a community residence serving people with DD. Requires annual hearings in each OPWDD DDSO area, each workgroup must meet at least four times a year, and at least once in each calendar quarter. Additionally, one public regional meeting shall be held annually in each city, town, or village where a DDSO is located, to provide a forum for people residing in group homes and their families, advocates, and other members of the public. A report is due by 1/30/23 and annually thereafter from the workgroup. Requires new information in the 5.07 plan. There are concerns that this Committee is not integrated with the Developmental Disability Advisory Council (DDAC), would require 28 public hearings and 96 quarterly meeting and is antithetical to the goal of breaking down system silos and looking at individuals and systems as a whole.   The law would be retroactive to when the 5.07 plan Chapter takes effect if signed by the Governor.

Directs Public Awareness Campaign — S.6300-C (Mannion)/A.7356-C (Woerner) requires the OPWDD Commissioner to consult with the OMH Commissioner to develop and implement a public awareness campaign that combats discrimination stigma and stereotyping of individuals with developmental disabilities. Requires the program to utilize public forums, social and mass media, the internet, radio, and print advertising. The program must be tailored to educate the general public about ID/DD and must highlight positive contributions of individuals with ID/DD to the state and their community. Requires OPWDD to consult with stakeholders. The law would be effective 60 days after being signed by the Governor and would sunset December 31, 2023.

Multi-Agency Study on Caregiver Workforce — S.5734-A (Ryan)/A.6202-A (Barrett) directs DOH, OPWDD, Office for the Aging, OCFS, and OMH to conduct a study regarding issues impacting the caregiver workforce in New York. The study would include information regarding the current workforce of paid caregivers, assessments of need by region for the next decade, a review of compensation, and an assessment of worker training programs, plus additional issues. The study would be due to the Governor and legislature one-year from being signed into law.

Modernizes NYSID’s Rules to Enhance Integrated Employment — S.7578-C (Mannion)/

A.8549-C (Burdick) updates the New York Industry for the Disabled’s (NYSID) contracting rules. Modernizes multiple terms within the preferred source statute including references to “workshops” and “severely” disabled. Establishes a standard that 50% or more people fulfilling a preferred source contract must be performed by disabled, or otherwise qualified, persons to receive preferred source status. The threshold for discretionary spending is established at $100,000 without OGS approval. Requires NYSID to issue a report to the legislature. The law would become effective upon the Governor’s signature. CP Strongly supported.

Requires OPWDD to Create an Employer Training and Certification Program — A.8915-B (Burdick)/S.7746-B (Mannion) requires OPWDD to establish a voluntary training and certification program for employers that have taken the EmployAbility Pledge to promote strategies that employers can implement to increase diversity in their workforce through hiring individuals with disabilities. Requires OPWDD to develop virtual training programs for employers.  The law would be effective 30 days after being signed by the Governor.

Requires Employment Opportunities be Posted on Civil Service Website — S.7662-A (Hoylman)/A.8599-A (Epstein) would enhance access to civil service positions designated under civil service law sections 55-b and 55-c for veterans and people with disabilities, who have historically had higher unemployment rates. The law would be effective upon the Governor’s signature.

Notification of State Operated IRA Closure or Transfer — S.7617 (Mannion)/A.9038 (Abinanti) extends for two years the requirement for OPWDD to notify the legislature and labor bargaining organizations of closures or transfers as soon as possible with a minimum of 45-day notice of any closures or transfer of a state operated individualized residential alternative.  This was effective on 4/26/2022 when the Governor signed the law as Chapter 176 of 2022.

Clarification of the Developmental Disabilities Advisory Council Members — S.7848 (Mannion)/A.8752 (Abinanti) amends to Chapter 683 of the Laws of 2021 to clarify that the Office of Mental Health Commissioner and Conference of Local Mental Hygiene Directors will be included as appointments to the Developmental Disabilities Advisory Council.  This law was signed on 2/24/2022 as Chapter 134 of the Laws of 2022 and was effective on 12/21/2021 which was the effective date of the original Chapter 71 of 2021.

Autism Advisory Board to Include Self-Advocates — S.8647 (Mannion)/A. 9921 (Santabarbara)

amends the Autism Spectrum Disorder Advisory Board to consist of twenty-four members. This will include fifteen appointed members and nine who will serve ex officio. Of the ten appointed members, the Governor, Temporary President of the Senate, Speaker of the Assembly, Minority Leader of the Senate, and Minority Leader of the Assembly shall each appoint three members. Of those three members, one member must possess the expertise of a professional in the field of autism, one member shall be a family advocate, and one member shall be a self-advocate in the community in which they reside. This law would go into effect upon the Governor’s signature.



Reconciliation After the Tuition Methodology Clarification for Special Education Schools & Programs — A.10191 (Benedetto)/S.9132 (Mannion) clarifies that the tuition methodology allows 853 schools, 4410 programs and Special Act School Districts, for the 2022-23 school year and annually thereafter, to retain funds prior to the reconciliation process. Allowable costs are defined by the reimbursable cost manual. This law would go into effect upon the Governor’s signature.  CP Strongly supported.

Interim Plus Rates — A.10192 (Benedetto)/S.9134 (Mannion) requires interim rates, or the tuition rate in place on July 1 at the beginning of the new school year, include the annual growth amount for such rates approved for the 2022-23 school year and annually thereafter. This law would apply to 853 schools, Special Act School Districts, July and August programs for students with disabilities, and 4410 programs and services shall include annual growth of the prospective rates. This law would take effect upon the Governor’s signature. CP Strongly supported.

NOTE: We were very pleased that on June 2, SED received DOB approval to include an 11 percent trend factor when calculating 2022-23 school year interim tuition rates (interim plus rates) for all programs except 1:1 nurses, Certified Interpreters, and preschool multi-disciplinary evaluations.  RSU is working to calculate interim plus rates, with the goal of issuing them by July 1, 2022.

Extends Ability to Continue Educational Services for Students with an IEP — A.8610-A (Abinanti)/S.7866-A (Harckham) provides that a school district may provide educational services in 2022-23 and 2023-24 school years to a student who turned 21 during the 2021-22 school year, was enrolled in the school district, and received special education services pursuant to an IEP. Such student may continue to receive educational services until the student completes the IEP or turns 23, whichever is sooner. This bill was signed by the Governor on June 13, 2022, as Chapter 213 of the Laws of 2022 and is effective and sunsets on June 30, 2024.

Parental Notification of Restraints — A.8540 (Burdick)/S.7548-A (Harckham) amends the education law to require each school district to develop a procedure to notify a student with disability’s parent or person in parental relation on the same day when a physical or mechanical restraint is used on the student, or the student is placed in a time out room.  This law would go into effect upon the Governor’s signature.

School Psychologists in 4410s — S.8802 (Mayer)/A.9973 (Griffin) extends for two years provisions of law authorizing school psychologists to continue to be part of the multi-disciplinary evaluation team for the evaluation of children ages 3 to 5 years old for preschool special education services.  On June 30, 2022, Governor Hochul signed S.8802 (Mayer)/A.9973 (Griffin) into law as Chapter 339 of the Laws of 2022.  This law took effect upon the Governor’s signature.  CP Strongly supported.


OMIG Reforms — A.7889-A (Gottfried)/S.4486-B (Harckham) requires the OMIG to wait at least 60 days prior to recovery actions on over-payments, prohibits repeat examinations of the same documents unless there is new information or good cause, limits audits to only apply the laws, regulations, etc. that were in place at the time the claim for conduct occurred, limits recoveries to intended falsification or defrauding or lack of corrective action after 30 days, updates the procedures for implementing compliance programs and requires the use of only statistically reasonable extrapolation methods. This law would take effect upon the Governor’s signature. CP Strongly supported.

Early Intervention Rate Study — S.5676 (Rivera)/A.6579 (Gottfried) requires the Department of Health to conduct a study and prepare a report on reimbursement rates in the early intervention program. The law would be effective upon the Governor’s signature and DOH would have one year from enactment to complete the work. CP Strongly supported.

Restrictions on Step Therapy — S.5909 (Kaminsky)/A.3276 (Gunther) and S.8191 (Breslin)/ A.9267 (McDonald), which are protocols used by health plans that require patients to “fail first” on a less-costly medication before covering a more expensive treatment.  The law would be effective upon the Governor’s signature.  CP Strongly supported.

Medically Fragile Children Coverage — A.289-C (Gottfried)/S.2121-C (Rivera) amends the public health law and the insurance law to ensure that medically fragile children receive appropriate care and treatment, and that health plans adopt policies and procedures tailored to the unique healthcare needs of this population. The law would be effective on January 1 after it is signed by the Governor.

Medicaid Coverage of Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) — A.299-B (Gottfried)/S.1578-B (Rivera) amends the social services law to include applied behavioral analysis under standard coverage for Medicaid recipients. This law takes effect on the 180th day after it is signed by the Governor with an immediate requirement that the DOH Commissioner shall make regulations and take other actions reasonably necessary to implement this act on that date.

Note:  DOH has included ABA in Medicaid and the State 2022-2023 budget increased the Medicaid reimbursement rate from $29 to $76.31.  CP Strongly supported.

Physical Therapy Assistant Licensure — A.6727-A (Zebrowski)/S.8746 (Stavisky) updates the practice of physical therapist assistant from a credential to licensed professional.  The law would be effective 18 months after it is signed by the Governor.

Physical Therapy Assistants in Home Care — A.9971 (Cook)/S.8843-A (Stavisky) extends for four years (through June 30, 2026) the authorization of physical therapy assistants to provide home care services without the physical presence of a supervising physical therapist, provided that such physical therapist: establishes a program of care for a patient, has an initial joint visit with the patient and the physical therapy assistant, periodically evaluates and treats such patient and provides a final evaluation to determine if the treatment plan should be terminated. The law would become effective upon the Governor’s signature.

Hospital Informed Consent — S.1172-C (Rivera)/A.9677 (Tapia) amends the public health law to include additional provisions to the hospital patient’s bill of rights which clearly state a patient’s right to receive certain information so that they can in turn consent.  The law would be effective on January 1 after it is signed by the Governor.

Health Insurer Co-Pay Accumulator Ban — A.1741-A (Gottfried)/S.5299-A (Rivera) amends the insurance law to require insurance companies or pharmacy benefit managers to apply price reduction instruments for out-of-pocket expenses when calculating an insured individual’s cost-sharing requirement. This bill is necessary because some insurance plans with a deductible require that the patient pay up to a certain amount of out-of-pocket expenses before the plan pays for all the healthcare services. Many drug manufacturers, especially for high-cost drugs that treat rare diseases offer copay cards or other assistance to help pay for their prescription drugs. By not applying the discounts paid by the manufacturer; it takes the insured person longer to reach their deductible. This law will take effect on the first of January next succeeding the date on which it was signed by the Governor. SUDEP Information — S.67 (Hoylman)/A.3298 (Epstein) amends amend the public health law to require that certain information be provided to patients and health care practitioners regarding “Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy” (SUDEP) because medical professionals should fully inform people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, their families, and caregivers of known risks and preventive measures when discussing their healthcare, treatment, and options. This law will take effect on the ninetieth day after it was signed by the Governor. CP Strongly supported.

Include Physician Assistants as Primary Care Practitioner — S.5956 (Rivera)/A.6056 (Gottfried) amends the social services law to allow physician assistants to be recognized as primary care providers for the purpose of providing access to care for Medicaid managed care beneficiaries.

The law would become effective upon the Governor’s signature.


Penalizes Employers for Violating Rules Governing Consecutive Working Hours for Nurses —A.286-A (Gunther)/S.1997-A (Jackson) requires the Commissioner of Labor to assess the employer a civil penalty of up to $1000 for a first violation, $2000 for a second violation, and $3000 for a third violation. Entitles the nurse to receive an additional 15% of the overtime payment from the employer for each violation as damages. The law would be effective sixty days after being signed by the Governor.

Requires Employers to Disclose Compensation Range — S.9427 (Ramos)/A.10477 (Joyner)

requires employers to disclose the compensation range to job applicants and people seeking promotions. Provides employees’ protection against retaliation for using the information. Requires a DOL public outreach campaign. Contains definitions and enforcement provisions. The bill would become law 270 days after being signed by the Governor.

Requires Recognition of Workplace Safety Committees — S.9450 (Gianaris)/A.10492 (Reyes) requires employers to recognize the establishment of a workplace safety committee within five business days of its establishment. Requires a $50 civil penalty per day until the violation is remedied. The law would be effective upon the Governor’s signature.

Workplace Sexual Harassment Hotline – S.812-B (Biaggi)/A. 2035-B (Niou) which establishes a confidential legal hotline for workplace sexual harassment complaints which shall be accessible by a toll- free phone number. Experienced attorneys acting in a pro-bono capacity will provide counsel and assistance.  This law was signed by the Governor on 3/16/2022 as Chapter 138 of the Laws of 2022 and will be effective in 120 days.

Human Rights Law Retaliation Definition -S.5870 (Gounardes)/A.7101 (Gonzalez-Rojas) – clarifies that release of personnel records to discount victims of workplace discrimination counts as a retaliatory action under the Human Rights Law and to provide additional recourse to victims of such retaliation.  This law was signed by the Governor on 3/16/2022 as Chapter 140 of the Laws of 2022 and was effective immediately.

Justice for Injured Workers Act – S. 9149 (Gounardes)/A. 10349 (Joyner) prohibits a court from using the wage compensation board’s prior decision to deny an injured worker an additional trial about their claim.  Businesses argue that injured workers, who have already settled their claim should not be allowed to return to court to get more money and prevent a return to work.  Workers argue that the law would give employers a role in helping the worker return to work.  The law would be effective upon the Governor’s signature.


Study of the Number of Children with I/DD in Foster Care — S.8046A (Mannion)/A.9080A (Hevesi) requires Commissioner of OCFS, in consultation with the Commissioner of OPWDD, to conduct a study to determine the number of children who have been placed in foster care and who have been diagnosed with a developmental disability. The study shall include an assessment of the demographics of such children, and evaluation of the current guidelines and regulations used to oversee the placement and treatment of such children, and an analysis of the extent to which such age-appropriate children are prepared for a transition from foster care to an independent living situation. The report to the Governor and legislative leaders of the Senate and Assembly is due no later than one year following the Governor’s signature.

Support Person During Hospitalization — A. 8751 (Pheffer Amato)/S.7884 (Addabbo) clarifies that an individual with a disability or the legal guardian for the individual shall be allowed to designate a single primary essential support person to assist with communicating medical needs and managing everyday needs during hospitalization and such essential support person shall be limited to such individual’s parent, spouse or caretaker for the duration of their hospitalization.  This bill was signed by the Governor on 2/24/22 as Chapter 42 of the Laws of 2022 and was effective immediately.

Increasing the Senior Citizen and Persons with Disabilities Real Property Tax Exemption — S.3085-A (Stewart-Cousins)/A.3956-A (Abinanti) allows local governments the option to raise the maximum income eligibility limit for the Senior Citizen Real Property Tax Exemption program and the Persons with Disabilities Real Property Tax Exemption from the current $29,000 to $50,000, which is the current cap for NYC property tax exemption.  The law would be effective upon the Governor’s signature.

Representative with a Disability on Transportation Authorities — S.3959-B (Kennedy)/A.7822-C (Rivera) requires the Niagara Frontier Transit Authority, Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority, the Capital District Transit Authority, the Central New York Regional Airport Authority to have one of their voting members to be an individual who relies on public transit as their main mode of transportation because the individual has a permanent or temporary disability.  This law will take effect on the ninetieth day after it was signed by the Governor. Medical Indemnity Fund — S.8591-A (Krueger)/A.6442-C (Abinanti) would add and amend certain definitions and provisions of Title 4 of the Public Health Law, regarding the New York State Medical Indemnity Fund (MIF), to institute a new enrollee orientation, provide clarification of qualifying health care costs, improve reimbursement procedures, and make permanent the reimbursement rate established in 2016. This law will take effect on the thirtieth day after it was signed by the Governor. However, effective immediately, the addition, amendment and/or repeal of any rule or regulation necessary for the implementation of this act on its effective date are authorized to be made and completed on or before such effective date. ABLE Program Residency Requirement– A.7652 (Gunter)/S.9335 (Brouk) – eliminate the New York State residency requirement for designated beneficiaries in the New York ABLE program bringing State law into conformance with the federal ABLE Act.  The law would be effective upon the Governor’s signature.

UCP Tradewinds Education Center holds annual prom event 

School age students at Upstate Cerebral Palsy’s Tradewinds Education Center in Utica, Rome, and Chadwicks celebrated its annual prom on Friday, June 10, 2022. More than 75 students celebrated on the Armory campus in Utica.

Tradewinds students 18 years of age and older look forward to this special occasion every year. It’s a time when families and friends accompany their loved ones down the famous red-carpet during the ceremony’s grand march. Students were escorted in limousines courtesy of Adonis-Avanti Transportation Service and ate a delicious buffet provided by Delmonico’s Steakhouse. The event also included music provided by Upstate Cerebral Palsy’s own DJ Dave.

“Prom is a significant milestone in a young person’s life,” said Jeremy Earl, senior vice president of education services at Upstate Cerebral Palsy. “It is a chance to connect and develop valuable life skills through social interactions with their peers. Our education program is proud to celebrate this annual event with our students, many whom live with us year-round.”

This year’s prom Grand Marshall was Patti Carey, vice president of school age services at Upstate Cerebral Palsy. Patti has been with the agency for over 26 years and will be retiring at the end of this month.

“This event is very close to my heart,” said Patti Carey. “I remember the first student that walked down that red carpet 20 years ago at the very first prom. I have great memories of students, families and friends of all abilities coming together celebrating friendships and school spirit as these students continue to grow into young adults.”

The prom is one of the last events for the Tradewinds students before the school year concludes.  For more information or if you are a community organization interested in being involved with next year’s prom, please contact Jeremy Earl at














Upstate Cerebral Palsy is a multi-faceted health and human services organization that provides innovative programs and services that support people with differing abilities and their families that create opportunities to fulfill life choices.  

CP State submits comments on Medicaid Redesign Team waiver

CP State recently submitted comments on the Medicaid Redesign Team (MRT) research and demonstration waiver #11-W-00114/2.

“We agree with the intent and appreciate the acknowledgement stated at the beginning of the waiver document noting the impact that COVID-19 has had on the intellectual/developmental disability (I/DD) community. Further, we appreciate the stated recognition that social care and health care need to be more fully integrated as part of the fabric of the Medicaid program. And the goals, as stated, make sense and are laudable.
However, throughout this document we do not see that there is a clear connection to and allowance for the I/DD sector’s impact on the entirety of the NYS health delivery system.”

Read the full comments below:

Diane Baehre becomes first female Executive Director at Empower

First woman to lead the organization in the disability-service-provider’s 68-year history

Diane Baehre

The Empower Board of Directors has selected Diane Baehre as the next Executive Director of Empower, making her the first woman to lead the disability service provider since its incorporation as United Cerebral Palsy Association (UCPA) of Niagara County in 1954.

Baehre began her career as a Direct Support Professional and went on to hold positions in social work and quality assurance with such organizations as People Inc., Aspire of Western New York, and Geneva B. Scruggs Community Health Center. She has led Empower’s Quality Assurance Department since joining the agency in 1998. Since 2014, she has been second in command of Empower, and in 2020 she was named Chief Quality Officer.

The transition team at Empower conducted an extensive search that yielded an array of truly impressive candidates.

“We met some talented and capable people,” said Tom Caserta, President of Empower’s Board of Directors. “In the end, we concluded that the answer was in front of us.”

Under Baerhe’s leadership in the Quality Assurance Department, Empower has created a thorough and meticulous quality assurance and quality improvement framework. During the initial accreditation visit from the Council on Quality and Leadership in 2018, CQL representatives praised her efforts and noted that other providers across the country could learn a thing or two from Baehre.

Baehre begins her new role on May 16, taking over from outgoing Executive Director Jeff Paterson, who, after seven years at Empower, will become CEO of sasi in Western NY.

“It is my honor and pleasure to continue Empower’s leadership in providing supports and services to people with disabilities,” said Baehre.

Cris Donovan named Executive Director at Racker

The Racker Board of Directors has selected Cris Donovan to lead Racker as the next Executive Director effective July 1, 2022.

Cris Donovan

Employed by Racker since 1998, Donovan brings a wealth of programmatic experience to the position.  She started her career with the organization in our residential program.  Many of you may know Cris as she continued with Racker as the Director of Early Childhood and Community Supports, and most recently, as Associate Executive Director.  In these roles, Cris provided supervision to Residential, Community Support Services, Care Management, Clinical Services, Preschool and Early Childhood Centers, and Counseling for School Success.   Her dedication to the people in our programs, Racker staff and our families is a top priority.  This steadfast leadership could be seen throughout the pandemic as she navigated the organization through uncertain times.  

In her own words, Cris has found herself through her work at Racker:  

“Over the past 24 years, I’ve grown up at Racker. I had two children, went to graduate school, and played a role in each and every service we offer. I’ve had opportunities to learn and grow and have made a difference in the lives of our staff and the people and families Racker supports. I am incredibly fortunate to have found Racker and to have been part of this organization. Working alongside talented people who do amazing work each day has been the honor of my lifetime. But we aren’t finished. There are still complicated problems to solve, opportunities to innovate, and the need for organizational recovery from the pandemic. I look forward to continuing to work with Racker’s incredible team to take on those challenges.”

Max Della Pia, President of Racker’s Board of Directors said choosing Donovan was easy


“Our search for a new Executive Director was a rigorous one.  It included a careful review of the key attributes we were looking for in our ideal candidate, and our search solicited input from  our community, representative families whom we serve, our leadership team, and the organizations with which Racker interacts.  Cris Donovan was an easy choice because of her demonstrated leadership, her work ethic, her attitude about those whom Racker serves, and her comprehensive knowledge and hands-on experience in virtually every aspect of Racker’s programs.  I know I speak for all the members of the Board and Racker’s staff when I say we all look forward to working with Cris to meet the challenges Racker will face going forward.”

Please join us as we congratulate Cris on her promotion to Executive Director at Racker!


May 18: ‘Inside the Cages’ looks at how local journalist exposed Willowbrook

Please join us for “Inside the Cages”: Jane Kurtin and The Staten Island Advance Break the Willowbrook story

 6 PM Wednesday, May 18th, 2022, live via Zoom

Please pre-register for this event via​

 From the late 1940s through the 1970s, the Willowbrook State School operated as the world’s largest institution for persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Conceived as an ideal center for treatment, it rapidly descended into a “snakepit” through underfunding, overcrowding, and understaffing. Willowbrook residents suffered neglect and abuse, and in some cases, were subjected to unethical medical research. Parents of children in the School, aided by concerned doctors and staff, acted to reform and then ultimately to close Willowbrook. They were supported in these efforts by journalists, who made the wider world aware of what they had witnessed with their own eyes.

Many know of the powerful exposé, broadcast fifty years ago, by ABC television journalist Geraldo Rivera. Rivera’s scathing report, Willowbrook, The Last Disgrace, which we featured in a Year of Willowbrook event in February*, brought the story of Willowbrook to a national audience. But before this, the story had been “broken” — brought into the light — by a local journalist, Jane Kurtin. Kurtin’s stories in The Staten Island Advance went beyond the isolated articles about Willowbrook that had appeared in other newspapers, like the New York Times. Her reporting on Willowbrook looked at it from a multitude of angles, and presented a sustained focus over several years of reporting on the struggles of the institution, on its underfunding, on the community’s response, and — most powerfully — on families’ agony and activism in the face of the institution’s harming of their loved ones. It is not an exaggeration to say that without Kurtin’s reporting, and without the local Staten Island Advance to publish it, the Willowbrook story might never have been told.

This event will feature a discussion among reporter Jane KurtinStaten Island Advance Executive Editor Brian Laline, and Willowbrook Legacy Committee member Diane BuglioliIt will examine the story behind the stories, how the Advance came to assign Kurtin to cover Willowbrook, and what the experience of reporting meant for those involved. We will also have the opportunity to view selected photographs captured by the late photojournalist Eric Aerts, who accompanied Kurtin on her investigations inside Willowbrook (a retrospective gallery show of Aerts’s powerful work is planned for the Fall). The event will be introduced by Willowbrook Legacy Committee Co-Chair Nora Santiago, and audience discussion will follow, facilitated by Willowbrook Legacy Committee Co-Chair, Dr. Catherine Lavender.

*A recording of The Year of Willowbrook event about the exposé can be viewed on the Willowbrook Project’s YouTube channel at

HR Conference registration now open

CP State is happy to announce that registration is now open for the 5th Annual Human Resources Professionals Conference for the Disability Provider Community on June 28-29, 2022 at the Embassy Suites in Saratoga Springs!
This two-day conference will feature HR subject matter experts who will discuss trending topics ranging from diversity and equity policies to recruiting in the current employment market.
Register now and take advantage of the Early Registration Fee option!
  • Early Registration deadline is May 6.
  • Final Registration deadline is June 15.
Reserve your hotel room today! Click here  to reserve an overnight room at our special rate.
There are a limited number of rooms available for this event – early registration is encouraged.
Questions? Contact Tim Ferguson ( or Deb Williams (