8:30 am – 9:30 am Keynote

1A. Featured Speakers on behalf of Governor Tom Wolf

Secretary Teresa Miller
Department of Human Services

Many Pennsylvanians are struggling with mental health issues but lack the support and resources to get the help they need. Governor Wolf has launched a multi-agency effort and anti-stigma campaign, “Reach Out PA: Your Mental Health Matters,” that seeks to remove barriers that keep the state’s residents from access to mental health care.  Secretary Miller will discuss these efforts which will ensure that every Pennsylvanian can access care and more agencies can respond to the challenges facing Pennsylvanians struggling with their mental health.

Kristin Ahrens
Deputy Secretary for the Office of Developmental Programs

Pennsylvania’s service systems for people with disabilities have very much been shaped by the Americans With Disabilities Act and recent changes in federal Medicaid policy are directly connected to the ADA. Deputy Secretary. Ahrens will discuss the critical role that employment plays in achieving the goals of the ADA and the goals of our
service systems that support people with disabilities.



9:40 am – 10:40 am Sessions

2A. Fulfilling the Promise of the ADA: Employing People with Disabilities

Joyce Bender, President and CEO
Bender Consulting Services

Companies such as Highmark and PNC are leading the way in their commitment to building a workforce that represents the diversity of talent in our region. Meet the business leaders who are responsible for building an engaged and accessible workforce that includes individuals living with disabilities, as they discuss the business value of hiring people with disabilities and the success factors required to build a workforce to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow. As a person living with epilepsy, Joyce Bender, CEO of Bender Consulting Services Inc., will kick off the session discussing what it means to develop and engage a successful team by making talent the only discriminator.



2B. Using the IEP Framework to Provide Holistic Transition Services to Students with Autism and Multiple Disabilities

Rick Lipa, MEd
The Day School at The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh

Lisa Paglia
The Day School at The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh

Mary Sanderson, MS OTR/L
The Day School at The Children’s Institute of Pittsburgh

While many parents, guardians, and educators are familiar with the phrase “transition services,” what does this term truly encompass? This session will provide an overview of the IEP transition grid by breaking down the three transition goals. For each goal, transition services and common terms will be defined. Case studies of current Day School students will be discussed and students will be present to share experiences in their own words.



2C. Walking Caregivers Through the Process of Helping Youth With Symptoms of a Mental Health Condition – NAMI Basics

Debbie Ference, Chief Operating Officer
NAMI Keystone Pennsylvania

Susan Caban, Director of Education
NAMI Keystone Pennsylvania

When a child is experiencing symptoms of a behavioral or mental health condition, it can impact the entire family. This workshop will preview the NAMI Signature program, NAMI Basics, that walks parents and caregivers through the complicated process of taking care of their child, their family, and themselves.



2D. Autism and Behavior: Creating Support Environments to Promote Positive Behaviors

Rachel Schwartz, Ph.D., BCBA, Education Consultant
The Watson Institute

Join us to learn practical applications of evidence-based strategies to support the needs of individuals with autism. In this interactive session, Dr. Rachel Schwartz will share current best practices to help support positive behavior changes across environments. She will outline how to conceptualize behavior and implement strategies to support individual success across settings, and provide attendees with step-by-step guidance in how to think about and assess behavior in different environments and set up individuals with autism for success.



2E. Experience Dyslexia: A Simulation

Dr. Denise Morelli
PBIDA Board Member

Mindy Bramer, Director of Professional Development
Provident Charter School

Maria Paluselli, Chief Learning Officer
Provident Charter School

Christine Craig Seppi, President

Many have read about dyslexia, but few have experienced it. Session attendees will engage in activities that mimic the experiences and processing of those with dyslexia. Presenters will also provide a brief overview of dyslexia’s neurological basis, demographics, warning signs and interventions.



9:40 am – 1:00 pm Special Program

2F. Building a Youth Mental Health Advocacy Network

Deborah Murdoch, MPH, Program Manager
Jewish Healthcare Foundation

High school youth from southwestern PA will lead a skills-building workshop for mental health advocacy. The session is designed for youth and adults who work with them who are interested in promoting the youth voice across Pennsylvania. The aim is to build a network of young people working to reduce mental health stigma and improve access to and quality of care, while also advocating for change with state and local decision makers.



10:50 am – 11:50 am Sessions

3A. Universal Design for Learning and Essential Functions

Beverly Barkon, PhD, Professor
Carlow University
Founding Director–Future. Engaged, LLC

Universal Design for Learning (UDL) has been applied to many aspects of learning.  This session will explore its application to the challenge of reasonable accommodations supporting the ability of individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions of a range of jobs.



3B. Guardianship and Other Forms of Substitute Decision Making & Understanding Mental Health Advance Directives in Pennsylvania

Rich Howard, President
River Communities Fiduciary Services, Inc.

Eric O’Connor, NCG, Vice President
River Communities Fiduciary Services, Inc.

Dr. Libby Moore, LSW, Dhce, NCG., Vice President of Client Care
River Communities Fiduciary Services, Inc.

Dr. Sarah Stockey, Dhce, Client Care Supervisor
River Communities Fiduciary Services, Inc.

John Kordish, LSW, NCG, National Certified Guardian
River Communities Fiduciary Services, Inc.

Nikki Dawson, MSW, Advocacy Director
NAMI Keystone PA

Aleta Barnett, BS, Adult Mental Health Advocate
NAMI Keystone PA

During this combined session, River Communities (RCFS) real-life experiences of supporting individuals who present with many unique needs and situations will be shared as they provide helpful information about Powers of Attorney, Representative Payee Services, all types of Substitute Healthcare Decision Making, Guardianship, and more. RCFS will be joined by representatives from NAMI Keystone PA, who will share information regarding Mental Health Advanced Directives, powerful self-advocacy tools designed to empower mental health consumers to make their own decisions regarding treatment before a crisis arises and emergency intervention is required.



3C. A Better Understanding of Behavior: Using Functional Behavioral Assessment for People with Mental Health Needs

Stacy Nonnemacher, Clinical Director
Office of Developmental Programs, PA Department of Human Services

Professionals and families are constantly seeking answers for why someone engages in behavior that may be destructive or harmful to themselves or others. This session will review the foundations of behavioral support, presenting Functional Behavioral Assessment (FBA) as a viable tool in better understanding behavior. Steps of the FBA process will be presented for the purpose of practical application focusing on utilization of the tool with people who have a mental health needs.



3D. Early Intervention – Birth to 5

Kathy Sullivan, M.Ed., Preschool Service Coordinator
Allegheny Intermediate Unit DART Program

Erica Balint, Outreach Coordinator
Alliance for Infants & Toddlers

For those who are diagnosed at an early age, starting and maintaining services until kindergarten is key to progress. This session will discuss the referral and evaluation process for young children, as well as what services are available and how they are delivered. It will describe the transitions that occur at 3 years of age and at the entry to school, and will help parents of young children with special needs understand the types of resources available to them.



3E. Making Math Accessible for All Students: Utilization of Assistive Technology Resources

Scott Dougherty, M.Ed
Allegheny Intermediate Unit

Shelly Burr, Ed.D.
Allegheny Intermediate Unit

Mathematics instruction and resources have changed considerably over the last several years. With the increased use of manipulatives and interactive materials, students, parents, and teachers may struggle with access for some students. In this session, participants will learn about resources and instructional strategies in the area of manipulatives to better support students with disabilities.



12:00 pm – 1:00 pm Sessions

4A. Ten Things You Need to Know about Special Education

Jeff Ruder, Esq.
Ruder Law

IEPs and 504 plans can be confusing. With so many pages and so much data, it’s easy for parents and self-advocates to get lost in the process. Ruder Law, which specializes in representing parents of students with disabilities in school matters, will share the keys to being a strong advocate.



4B. Inclusive Practices for Secondary Transition

Hillary A. Mangis, Ph.D.

Christine A. Moon

The essential job of every school is to help ALL students to learn, grow, and succeed not just in the classroom but, more importantly, BEYOND the classroom. During this session, participants will engage in learning activities to explore IDEA transition requirements and best practices, as well as employment legislation requirements, while challenging their own beliefs surrounding inclusive practices and the resources that support them.



4C. The Intersection between Mental Health and Addiction: Eliminating the Stigma of Seeking Care

Dr. Caesar DeLeo, Vice President, Executive Medical Director Clinical Strategies
Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield

Stuart Fisk, CRNP, Director, Center for Inclusion Health
Allegheny Health Network

Many people carry a dual diagnosis of mental health and addiction issues, which not only increases the challenge of effective treatment, but heightens stigma as well. Too many still consider addiction to be largely the fault of the person. This issue is an indicator of stigma as a significant barrier to people seeking treatment. The experts in this session will talk about the public health approach to addressing such scenarios and why it is an important health goal to eliminate stigma.



4D. Privilege and Prejudice: Disability in Black, White and Grey

Katherine A. Shecora, LSW, Vice President
National Association of Social Workers, Pennsylvania Chapter

Cynthia J. Corbin, LCSW, President
National Association of Social Workers, Pennsylvania Chapter

Physical or emotional impairments can happen to anyone at any time, in an instant. The purpose of this presentation is to initiate a conversation about the life changes that can happen with the onset of an impairment, and how social class, education, race and age can impact the quality of one’s journey.



4E. Executive Function Skills: Promoting the Development of Essential Life Skills

Dr. Erin J. Grimm, Training and Consultation Coordinator
Allegheny Intermediate Unit

Crystal Vogtsberger, Training and Consultation Coordinator
Allegheny Intermediate Unit

Executive function skills are what a student needs to make any of their hopes and dreams for their future come true. Please join us as we take a deeper dive into the 11 essential areas of executive function and discover three ways to manage executive skill needs, specifically geared towards each area: modifying the environment, teaching the skill and using incentives.



1:10 pm – 3:20 pm Special Program

5A. Legislative Panel: State Policies on Disability & Mental Health

State Representative Dan Miller

Representatives, Senators, and elected leaders from across the area will get together for a panel discussion to talk about state policies and legislative initiatives that need to advance in order to increase independence and opportunity for everyone.



1:10 pm – 2:10 pm Sessions

5B. Navigating Medicaid for a Child with a Disability

Leigh Anne Kustra, MHA, MBA, Director of Population Health Strategies
Gateway Health

This session will provide a comprehensive understanding of the role that Medicaid plays in the provision of both physical and behavioral healthcare to children with disabilities in Pennsylvania. Topics include the enrollment criteria and process, how to work with providers, what to expect from your health plan, coordination of benefits with primary insurance, and much more.



5C. ENGAGE Early: Influencing the Outcomes of Psychosis in a Proactive Way

Marci Sturgeon-Rusiewicz, MS, NCC, LPC, CPSS, CPRP, Doctoral Candidate, Senior Manager of Recovery and Resiliency
Wesley Family Services

Kyran John Phillips, Certified Peer Specialist
Peer Support and Advocacy Network

This interactive presentation will highlight the importance of treating psychosis in its earliest stages and describe the Coordinated Specialty Care (CSC) treatment model used in the ENGAGE Program, a recovery-oriented treatment program for people with first-episode psychosis. With early and targeted interventions, programs like ENGAGE are preventing psychosis from reoccurring and resulting in positive, life-altering outcomes for youth and young adults who would have previously developed full disability and potential cognitive impairment.



2:20 pm – 3:20 pm Sessions

6B. Services for Students and Youth: Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation

Erika Kauffman, M.ED, Office of Vocational Rehabilitation
John P Miller, MRC, MA. CRC, CAADC OWDS, Office of Vocational Rehabilitation
Cindy Rosentreter, MS, CRC, Office of Vocational Rehabilitation
Beth Traynor MS, LPC, CRC, Office of Vocational Rehabilitation
Jim Lilley, MS; Office of Vocational Rehabilitation

Vocational Rehabilitation Supervisors from the Pittsburgh Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) will present information about services offered to students and youth with disabilities between the ages of 14-21 within Allegheny County. A timeline of when, how, and who can access OVR services will be defined, and collaborations with local agencies and employers will be described.



6C. Positive Outcomes Using Customized Programs across the Lifespan: Helen Keller National Center’s Comprehensive Vocational Training and Personal Adjustment Program and Services

Cynthia L. Ingraham; East Central Representative
Helen Keller National Center

In recent years, numerous changes to rehabilitation services have transected with specific legislation to improve the lives of deafblind consumers of all ages and educational backgrounds. However, access to quality education, employment, and mental health services for this group remains woefully behind that of other disability categories. Attendees will learn how the Helen Keller National Center’s (HKNC) focus on individualized programming, structured support and specialized training has resulted in deafblind consumers experiencing successful outcomes across all service areas through a unique collection of training programs.



3:30 pm – 4:30 pm Sessions

7A. The Intersection of Elder/Long Term Care and Special Needs Planning

Nora Gieg Chatha, Esq.
Tucker Arensberg, P.C.

Brittany R. Holzer, Esq.
Tucker Arensberg, P.C.

This session will prompt parents, guardians and caregivers of individuals with special needs to consider their own personal and long-term care planning needs so that they can better plan and advocate for the transition of the advocacy and support they provide to their disabled loved ones as they age.



7B. From Referral to Job Placement: Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation

Megan Nocera, M.S, Office of Vocational Rehabilitation
John P Miller, MRC, MA. CRC, CAADC OWDS, Office of Vocational Rehabilitation
Jim Lilley, MS, Office of Vocational Rehabilitation
Beth Traynor MS, LPC, CRC, Office of Vocational Rehabilitation

In this session, staff from the Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (OVR) will outline the referral, application and eligibility process for VR services, and will discuss the difference between Pre-Employment Transition Services and Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) services. OVR will discuss the Individual Plan for Employment (IPE) and detail the potential services available to individuals who are determined to be eligible for VR services.



7C. More Than Sad: Suicide Prevention Education for Parents, Teachers and Other School Personnel

Jesse Putkoski, M.S.Ed., Area Director
Western PA Chapter American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Addressing the mental health needs of children and youth is a critically important issue. In this session, participants will learn to recognize signs of depression and other mental health problems, initiate conversations with children and students, and get them help. This important information will give attendees greater confidence in having mental health conversations and encouraging those struggling to seek help.



7D. Navigating Transition in Health Care: Liftoff and Landing

Miya Asato MD, Director, LEND Program of Pittsburgh
UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, Division of Child Neurology

Tomar Pierson-Brown JD, LL.M, University of Pittsburgh School of Law, Director
Health Law Clinic

Loreta Matheo MD
UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, Division of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine

Valire Copeland MSW, MPH, PhD
University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work

Elizabeth Humphrey
LEND Program of Pittsburgh

Astrid Arroyo
LEND Program of Pittsburgh

The modern view of transitioning from pediatric to adult health care settings focuses on a dynamic process engaging the young adult, family, and providers. A team approach can facilitate a longitudinal process to enable empowerment of young adults, families, and facilitate cross-system communication. In this presentation, a multidisciplinary panel will discuss unique challenges for those with concurrent disabilities and mental health conditions using case examples and identifying strategies to ensure successful transition for all stakeholders.



7E. Communication Disorders: From Assessment to Treatment

Brandon Markosek, State Representative
25th District

Caterina Staltari, Director of Clinical Education
Duquesne University, Dept. Speech-Language Pathology

Communication disorders can take on many forms, from sound production, to language and cognitive disorders in children in adults. They can be the result of developmental challenges or acquired as the result of neurological or physical conditions. Early and appropriate assessment with subsequent treatment is essential for remediation or recovery. Learning what supports are available and learning how to advocate for those supports is essential. Caterina Staltari, Director of Clinical Education, Duquesne University, Department of Speech-Language Pathology will discuss the importance of assessment and identification of appropriate treatment goals. Representative Brandon Markosek will share his story as a successful professional who has overcome a speech disorder.



7F. You’ve Gotta Have “Faith”: A Student’s Experience with Having a Service Dog at School and in the Community

Lori Sutton, Director of Special Education
Bethel Park School District

Dr. Heather Doyle, Director of Special Education
Mt. Lebanon School District

Suzanne Lochie, Supervisor of Student Services
Keystone Oaks School District

Anthony Mannella, Director of Transition Services
PA Connecting Communities

Melissa Szabo, Student & Faith, Service Dog
Mrs. Karen Szabo, Parent

Dr. Richard Dowell, Principal
Mon Valley School

Julie Hernandez, Special Education
Bethel Park High School

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) defines service animals as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for individuals with disabilities. Covering a range of aspects from the legal background to interagency collaboration to practical tips and strategies related to service dogs, this session will feature a panel presentation to share one student’s experience having the support of a service dog at school and in the community.



4:40 pm – 5:50 pm Keynote

8A Keynote: The Honorable Tony Coelho, one of the architects of the ADA followed by a panel of legislative staffers with a behind the scenes look.

The Honorable Tony Coelho
Member of the US House of Representatives from 1979-1989, of the 15th Congressional District of California

Congressman Coelho introduced the Americans with Disabilities Act and championed its passage, but that wasn’t the end of his advocacy or the entire story of his passion. In his keynote address, the Congressman will talk about how and why the ADA was introduced, discuss his own disability story, and talk about what must come next in the fight to increase independence and opportunity for everyone.

Bobby Silverstein
Principal, Law Firm of Powers, Pyles, Sutter & Verville, PC, and member of the State Exchange on Employment and Disability (SEED) team 

Michael Gamel-McCormick
Disability Policy Director, Senate Special Committee on Aging, Senator Bob Casey

The fight for passage of the ADA was a long struggle, fought both inside and outside the Capitol. The product of a Democratic Congress and a Republican president, this session will go behind the scenes with two key staffers who know the inside story on how compromise was found, pitfalls were avoided, and how, at the end, a landmark piece of civil rights legislation was created that improved the futures of millions of Americans.



5:50 pm – 6:50 pm Sessions

9A. Living My Good Life – How It’s Achievable

Kathy Davis
Supervisor of Promising Practice Team

Erin Karus, M.Ed.
Promising Practice Coordinator

Michael Carnicella, MA
CEO of Transitional Options, Inc

Aeisha M. Carter, MAEd,, CEO & owner
Tutelage Residential Services

Carol Erzen, M.Ed. , Staff Development Executive

Elizabeth Humphrey

Kimberly Katruska, PhD,

This session will challenge the frameworks of traditional service paradigms as individuals enter adulthood or continue to change and grow within their existing support system. Discussion will focus on individualized strategies to help individuals identify what constitutes their “Good Life,” and finding innovative ways to achieve it.



9B. Yes, You Can Go to College!

Dr. Ann Marie Licata, Director
Pennsylvania Inclusive Higher Education Consortium

The opportunity for a true college experience for young adults with intellectual disabilities has grown tremendously in our state since 2015 with the help of the Pennsylvania Inclusive Higher Education Consortium. Over 27 colleges and universities are a part of this network, which is raising awareness, developing inclusive initiatives and providing full inclusive access to college. This session will describe the initiative, what experiences look like, and how participants can get more information.



9C. Engaging Fathers: The Importance of Dads and Effective Ways to Engage

George Fleming, Outreach Specialist
Allegheny Family Network

Research shows that fathers not only have the capacity for care giving, but that children benefit directly from dads’ parenting contributions. Related findings indicate that fathers’ emotional absence has long-lasting negative effects on child development. Unfortunately, institutional systems including mental health, legal, workforce development, housing and child welfare often operate in ways that create challenges and barriers to fathers. Attendees will learn about a framework for engagement of fathers that has shown positive outcomes, and we will hear from a widowed father who is currently raising his children while navigating these systems.



9D. Integrated Care: Providing Quality Services to Address Rehabilitation, Disability and Mental Health

Kimberly K. Mathos D.O., M.P.H., Assistant Professor of Psychiatry
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center

Susan Rudisin, M.Ed., CRC, LPC
University of Pittsburgh Center for Recovery Services

For many years, people with multiple disabilities have been inadequately or incompletely served by the physical, mental health and social service systems. Meeting the needs of people with complex needs has often been a challenge for providers, but there have been many recent positive changes where agency collaborations have benefitted local consumers. Cross trainings, integration of services, peer support, and advocacy efforts have collectively helped to promote positive change. In our presentation, we will discuss how consumer/academic and community partnerships have made life better for everyone.



9E. The Essential Elements of Customized Employment

Michal Wargo, ADEPT Program Specialist
The Arc of Pennsylvania

David Wargo, ADEPT Program Specialist
The Arc of Pennsylvania

Everyone can work. Learn how Customized Employment services can help individuals with disabilities who are struggling to find employment find meaningful work with local employers that aligns with their interests, skills and needs. These customized jobs are negotiated to meet the needs of the individual and the employer. The presenters will walk attendees through the Customized Employment process and share real-world success stories.



9F. Building Networks with Purpose

Katie Smith, Youth Leadership Coordinator
The PEAL Center

Erin Weierbach, Youth Empowerment Coordinator
The PEAL Center

Have you ever heard the expression, “It’s not what you know. It’s who you know”? This session will allow transition-age youth and the people who care about them explore the importance of creating a network and the process of building social, community and professional relationships. Participants will leave with an introduction to the skills and the networking potential inside of them and ways to utilize those tools in real life situations.



7:00 pm – 8:00 pm Sessions

10A. Cities of Inclusion

Kraig Makohus, Senior Director of Development,
Special Olympics Pennsylvania

Come learn about the exciting work being done in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia to become the world’s first recognized “Cities of Inclusion.”  Our vision is a city where people with disabilities lead healthy and fulfilling lives as respected members of a more inclusive society.



10B. Relationships and Healthy Sexuality in the ID Community

Gregory Cherpes MD, Medical Director
Pennsylvania Office of Developmental Programs

Dr. Beverly Frantz PhD
Temple University Institute on Disabilities

A National Public Radio (NPR) investigative report concluded that people with a disability are seven times more likely to be sexually abused than those without a disability, making an already vulnerable population even more susceptible to abuse, exploitation and neglect perpetrated by others. The ability to enjoy and experience healthy sexuality and relationships is deeply impeded by the pain and mistrust associated with sexual trauma and victimization. Awareness must be raised in each of these areas to ensure that everyone is equipped to be vigilant for the signs of abuse and serve as advocates for people with disabilities.



10C. Mass Violence: Why Psychological Trauma is a Public Health Matter

Dr. Tracy L. Scanlon, LPC, CT, CEAP, Director of Professional and Program Services
Outreach Teen & Family Services

Acts of mass violence, and the psychological trauma that results from them, are having an impact on the mental well-being of our communities that must be addressed. In this session, we will look to better understand these psychosocial consequences, discuss how to build resilience, and consider what steps we can take to help safeguard the mental wellness of our community.



10D. Cross-Disability Perspective for Emergency Preparedness

Leah Gray, Deputy Director
Disability Options Network

Tom Franz
PEMA and the Pennsylvania Volunteers

Everyone needs to be prepared for an emergency, but planning ahead can be critical for an individual with a disability. Members of the PEMA Taskforce for Disability Inclusion will address what individuals should do to prepare themselves for any and all types of emergencies. Each individual in attendance will receive a “go kit” containing several of the items that everyone should have readily available in case of an emergency, whether in an evacuation or shelter-in-place situation.



10E. How History Informs the Present about Housing Options for People with Disabilities

Mary Hartley, Project Director
Western Pennsylvania Disability History and Action Consortium

Guy Caruso, Ph.D., FAAIDD
Institute on Disabilities at Temple University

Nancy Murray, M.S., President
The Arc of Greater Pittsburgh at Achieva

This presentation will briefly review the historically segregated housing options for people with disabilities, as well as describe community living movement housing options and other intentional community type of residential settings. Most of the presentation will address “best practices” of housing options today, as well as respond to efforts that are still promoting segregation and congregation.



10F. Survival Guide for College-bound Students that Think Differently

Collin Diedrich, PhD
Learning Disabilities Association of Pennsylvania

College can be scary for students who think differently. Dr. Diedrich has multiple learning disabilities and knows how much of a barrier college can be. He will share his personal story about how he overcame his disabilities by teaching future college students how to self-advocate, become comfortable with failure, and learn how to overcome imposter syndrome.