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NJ Self-Direction Conference


Val Bradley, 

President Emerita of the Human Services Research Institute


Paul Aronsohn, 

Ombudsman for Individuals with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities and Their Families

Afternoon Welcome: 

Assemblywoman Angela McKnight

Title: Self-Advocacy: An Essential Element for Self-Direction Success 

Presenters: Pamela King, Advisory Board Member, NJ Statewide Self-Advocacy Network and Ashley Ritchey, MSW, LSW, Family & Advocate Education Liaison with the NJ Division of Developmental Disabilities’ Office of Education on Self-Directed Services 

Description: Self-direction is an approach to delivering home and community-based services that offers people with disabilities and their families increased choice and authority over how, and from whom, a person receives support. Self-advocacy is the worldwide civil rights movement led for and by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). This webinar will focus on the relationship between self-advocacy skills and successful outcomes in self-direction. We will explore how self-advocacy can encourage people with I/DD to play an active role in the creation and implementation of their person-centered plan. We will also discuss how family members and professionals can support self-advocacy skill building across a variety of settings.

Title:  Home Accessibility: Identifying and Removing Barriers 

Presenter:  Josh Bradley, Community Access Unlimited

Description:  This session will discuss common accessibility barriers within a home. We will also discuss renovation options to address home entry and exit, ramps, lifts, bathroom modification, home and kitchen safety. 


Some area we will cover:

  • Door Frames

  • Ramps

  • Lifts

  • Stairlift

  • Bathroom - low threshold vs roll in

  • Built in seat or shower chairs

  • Adjustable shower head/on-off valves

  • Grabbars

  • Toilet seat risers 

  • Non shattering mirror film or glass film.

  • Ceiling mounted track systems 

  • Automatic curtains

Title:  Agency with Choice (AwC) Program Overview

Presenter:  Tashaya Daniels

Description:  This presentation will cover all policies and procedures for the Easterseals, Agency With Choice program. We will review enrollment, onboarding, benefits, compliance/training and any updates. This presentation can be attended by vendors, SC, ME,SDE or any person wanting to learn about AWC. 

Title:  Until You are Understood...

Presenters:  Claribel Guzman, Advocate; Patty Kowalchuk, Provider Agency/friend of Claribel

Description:  Claribel and Patty will have a candid discussion about Claribel's experience as a woman who grew up requiring much assistance from her mother and then who freely chose to change that structure to allow both her and her mother to lead the lives of independent women. Claribel will share how her mother's continued emphasis on independence led Claribel to be the strong woman she is today. As part of the discussion, the importance of self-directing her services will be emphasized.

Title:  Paving the Road to a Better Life- Breaking Down Systems of Support

Presenters:  Sheldon Schwitek- Director of People and Culture, Kristen Mathews, Director of Supports Brokerage

Description:  In New Jersey, people who self-direct some or all their services have an option to engage Supports Brokerage to assist with many tasks that fall outside traditional Supports Coordination and other eligibility-based community services. Supports Brokers act as allies whose role is to assist in developing a more robust person-centered plan. Supports Brokers can facilitate the development of Personal Support Networks, strong natural supports, and mapping the person’s communities to find available community resources.

Title:  Creating High Quality Supports Brokerage Services

Presenters:  Patricia Brennan, Jessica Licona, and Colleen McLaughlin

Description:  This presentation will describe strategies for creating high quality Supports Brokerage services by cultivating positive relationships aimed at supporting people to self-direct their services effectively.  Presenters will discuss the evolution of the service in New Jersey and the importance of collaboration, Supports Broker networking opportunities, and ideas and experiences shared by people with disabilities and families in networking sessions facilitated by DDD's Office of Education on Self-Directed Services.

Title:  Supported Decision-making Made Practical

Presenters:  Michael Brower, Legal Director and Kelly McGuire, Staff Attorney 

Description:  Join two attorneys from Disability Rights NJ who will talk about supported decision-making as a less restrictive alternative to guardianship.  Participants will learn what supported decision-making means in New Jersey, how it can be used to avoid unnecessary guardianships, and some practical ways that people with disabilities and their supporters can promote the practice in their own lives.

Title:  Technology for Accessibility is Technology for All

Presenter:  Josh Bradley, Community Access Unlimited

Description:  This session will cover technology to support individuals in all areas of life from communication aids to smart home technology all while linking the technology in a way to support independence and meet individualized goals.

Some items we will cover.

  • iPhone/iPad/Watch

  • Microsoft OS Accessibility

  • Smart Home - digital assistants (Alexa, Siri)

  • Touch Pad Locks

  • AAC

  • Camera/Motion Sensors

Title:  Shared Supportive Decision Making: My Voice Count

Presenter:  Frank Latham, Self-Advocacy Coordinator, Principal Presenter and other Self-Advocates; NJ Council on Developmental Disabilities

Description:  This presentation will look at some of the options for supportive decision making and how self-advocates voices should be valued and heard.

Title:  Stepping into Self-Direction: Choice, Control, Empower, Energized!

Presenters:  Pamela Brooks, PPL NJ Sr. Account Manager & Herb Collman, PPL NJ Account Manager


Description:  Join this workshop to explore the benefits of self-direction under the Vendor Fiscal/Employer Agent model as administered by Public Partnerships. Find out what the steps are to enroll with Public Partnerships and be on your way to control who provides you service, at what rate and when!   

Title:  Self-Direct Using the Charting the Life Course Framework

Presenter:  Christina Rappisi, Director of Support Coordination, Values Into Action NJ

Description:  Build the life you envision for yourself utilizing the Charting the Life Course Framework. This workshop will teach you how to use Charting the Life Course tools to self-direct your life. 

Afternoon Keynote:

Dr. Jennifer Johnson

Deputy Commissioner of the Administration on Disabilities (AoD)

Title:  Self-Directed Services after more than 2 Decades in Michigan


Presenter:  Jan Lampman; Owner, Community Drive

Description:  We will learn of the path that Self direction has taken in Micihgan.  We will learn about what worked to improve the lives of people who use the service system and what shortcomings we are still wrestling with in Michigan.

Title:  Self Direction for All


Presenters:  Mercedes Witowsky, Executive Director at the New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities and Parent Advocate Annette Smith, Parent Advocate Eileen Hurley, Parent Advocate and Past Chair of the New Jersey Council on Developmental Disabilities


Description:  Can Self-Direction work for everyone? Explore how Self-Direction works for individuals with complex medical and behavioral needs. Listen to families share their experiences and ways in which they assist their loved ones in achieving a self-determined life using Self-Direction.

Title:  Who's Doing What?

Presenters:  Patricia Brennan, MSW- Director of Office of Education on Self Directed Services, Waiting List, and Special Projects and Jessica Licona, MSW- Assistant Director of Office of Education on Self Directed Services, Waiting List, and Special Projects

Panelists: Joshua Godown, Bridges Support Coordination; Patty Kowalchuk and Steve Roosen, Royal Community Support; Kristen Mathews, Eiros Group; Tashaya Daniels, Easterseals; Kimberly Jackson, Public Partnerships LLC; Melissa Soules, All Heart & Soul; Natalie Trump, Family Member; Marie Trump, Self-Advocate

Description:  Join this informative session with the Director and the Assistant Director of the newly established Office of Education for Self Direction. Covering all roles in the NJ self directed system, this session will highlight what each stakeholder does to advance the opportunity and quality of self direction, and ensure people with disabilities are in control of their own lives. Discussion will focus on the responsibilities of the person directing their services and their family, the Vendor/Fiscal Employer Agent and Employer of Record; the Agency with Choice and the Managing Employer, the Self-Directed Employee, the Supports Broker, the Support Coordinator as well as DDD staff. 

Sponsored by
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Closing Keynote 


Title:  Seeding Possibilities

Presenter:  David James “DJ” Savarese

Description:  We all yearn to be a part of something greater than ourselves. We all want the freedom to pattern our own lives. For people with disabilities, that freedom is called self-direction.

Featuring Keynote Presenters


Val Bradley

Ms. Bradley is President Emerita of the Human Services Research Institute.  Prior to January 1, 2017, Ms. Bradley was the President of HSRI since its inception in 1976.  Ms. Bradley has directed numerous state and federal policy projects that have contributed to the expansion, enhancement and responsiveness of services and supports to people with disabilities and their families.  


Ms. Bradley is a past Chair of the President’s Committee on Persons with Intellectual Disabilities and a Past President of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.  She is the lead author of the book Self-Direction:  A Revolution in Human Services published by SUNY Press.  She has also edited books on quality assurance and improvement, individual supports, and deinstitutionalization. 


She is currently a senior advisor to National Core Indicators, provides  technical assistance to Living Well grantees, and is advocating for enhancing the status, pay and respect for direct support professionals.


Paul Aronsohn

Paul Aronsohn is currently serving as New Jersey’s statewide Ombudsman for Individuals with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities and Their Families – a position to which he was appointed by Governor Phil Murphy in April 2018. As such, he serves as the administration’s lead advocate and ally for New Jersey residents in need of critical services and supports ranging from early childhood through adulthood.


Paul was also appointed last year by President Biden to serve on the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities, which serves as a federal advisor to the President and the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services.


Paul currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Bergen County Branch of the NAACP as well as on the Bergen County Disability Services Advisory Board. He has also recently been actively involved in a range of volunteer activities focused on food security, social justice, and disability rights.


Dr. Jennifer Johnson

Dr. Jennifer Johnson is the Deputy Commissioner of the Administration on Disabilities (AoD), part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Community Living. She is also the Director of AoD’s Office of Disability Service Innovations. AoD’s mission is to equip individuals with disabilities of all ages with opportunities, tools, and supports to lead lives of their choice in their community.  Its programs are working to create change and improve the lives of the estimated 61 million individuals with disabilities living in the US by advancing opportunities for inclusion and participation in the community, employment and financial well-being, and independence and self- determination.

Dr. Johnson has served as the Deputy Commissioner since September 2019, with a focus on improving the quality, accountability, and evidence base of AoD’s programs and initiatives. She supports planning and oversight of AoD’s $330 million budget that funds a number of disability programs and projects across the US and its territories. Her 30-year career in government, academia, national organizations, and local school systems demonstrates a clear commitment to improving opportunities for people with disabilities to lead full lives in the community, with emphases on diversity, inclusion, and advancing a diverse array of programs for underserved and unserved individuals and communities.


David James “DJ” Savarese

David James “DJ” Savarese is co-chair of The Alliance for Citizen Directed Supports where he designed and directs the Lives-in-Progress Collective,  a national, grassroots project focused on expanding and transforming self-direction. An author, poet, and essayist, he teaches multigenerational, global poetry writing classes through Listen2Us and poetry writing courses for alternatively communicating autistics through the LYNX Project in Chicago. A practicing optimist, he has learned to smile inwardly at who he is and who he is becoming as he creatively improvises a way forward.

About the 2023 NJ SDC

Brought to you in partnership with

The Collaborative for Citizen Directed Support NJ, 

Easterseals, NJ and Public Partnerships Group, LLC

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