Winter 2014-2015 issue


Winter 2014-2015 issue
Self Advocates In-Action
YAI NYC Self Advocacy
Newsletter Committee:
Alem Blount, Terry Bryson, Robert
Cardona, Allan Fraser, Car'Melo Grau,
Michael Gunther, Alicia Melendez,
Ismael Nunez,
WINTER 2014 - 2015
In this Issue…
My Interview with Eliot Green
By Alem Blount Photographers
Ismael Nunez, Alem Blount, Alicia
Tom Ott, Christine Vyshedsky & Allen
The 2014-2015 Self Advocacy
Board Members:
Car’Melo Grau - President
Jennifer Naftelowitz - Vice-President
Ismael Nunez - Secretary
Lee Rhodes - Treasurer
Steven Stancil – Peacekeeper
Robert cardona- Peacekeeper
Christine Buda - Hospitality
Terry Bryson Jr.- Hospitality
YAI Network Leadership:
Chief Executive Officer
Matthew Sturiale, L.C.S.W.
My Experiences at
Kingsborough Community
College By Alicia Crystal Melendez SELF ADVOCATES IN-ACTION
ISSUE 21, WINTER 2014-2015
My Experiences at
Community College
By Alicia Crystal Melendez My experiences at Kingsborough Community College started with the first day of orientation through the AHRC Melissa Riggio Higher Education Program on Monday, August 11, 2014 and continued until Thursday, September 4, 2014 when the actual college classes actually began. I was in the Melissa Riggio Higher Education Program room with four other students. I learned a lot about the Melissa Riggio Higher Education Program. The program was named after Melissa Riggio who was born with Down syndrome and died of leukemia. She inspired people with disabilities including me to always follow their dreams. For me, college has always been a dream of mine and I get to live out that dream of attending Kingsborough Community College through the AHRC Melissa Riggio Higher Education Program. Independence is guided by personal choice. Networking builds relationships, connections, and a community life that’s enhanced by education and teamwork. I learned that I have certain things in common with others like the fact that my favorite color is the same as another student. It turns out that Kingsborough Community College has staff that watches out for you. I also learned the code of conduct. The code of conduct is important to college students. In fact, some of the rules of conduct at Kingsborough Community College aren’t all that dissimilar from PAGE 2
the rules of the YAI Self‐Advocacy Meetings. I learned about what I should expect from staff and what they expect from me. I learned about how to show respect to others. Treat other people the way that you’d want to be treated. This means that you should be kind to people. Try to really care about other people. This will help promote mutual respect. If you respect them, they’ll respect you. First, you need to show kindness and courtesy. Always consider the next person’s position and feelings before reacting. Be respectful to others even if they aren’t respectful to you. Show patience and humility. The other person may learn something from you. This doesn’t imply becoming a doormat. The first step of being respected is respecting yourself. Be respectful to yourself or others won’t respect you or they may take advantage of you. I also learned about the contract from Kingsborough Community College through the AHRC Melissa Riggio Higher Education Program and also their policies. The program is open yearly from Monday to Friday. It starts at 8:45am and ends at 2:45pm every day. The best thing that we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers. My Interview with
Eliot Green
By Alem Blount On Wednesday October 1, 2014. I had got the opportunity to do an interview with Eliot Green, who is the chair of the YAI Board, at his law office which is Loeb & Loeb. It was my first time being in a law office. They sat me in this small conference room until it was time for me to do my interview with Eliot Green. The view from the window was very outstanding. 1. How did he get involved with YAI? Eliot's law firm represented YAI. He became familiar with YAI because the law firm he had worked at did the legal work for YAI. Eliot first got involved with YAI in 1989 when he first started doing legal work for YAI. Eventually Joel and Phil Levy asked Eliot to join the YAI Board in 1996. 2. What is his educational background? SELF ADVOCATES IN-ACTION
ISSUE 21, WINTER 2014-2015
Eliot went to Montclair High School in Montclair, New Jersey and went to Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania. Eliot also went to Case Western Reserve Law School in Cleveland, Ohio. 3. Why did he want to get involved with the YAI Board? Eliot knew a lot about YAI. Some board members join the board with a limited amount of knowledge of the agency, but they learn quickly about YAI or they might have some experience with YAI either because their parents or have a family members that are served by YAI. Eliot knew a lot about the corporate side of YAI and the services that's provided by YAI. Eliot helped to set up Premier Healthcare when YAI expanded from providing social services to providing medical services to individuals and their families. 4. How many years has he been involved with the YAI Board? Eliot has been officially involved with the YAI board since 1996, but actually he was involved with the YAI board way before 1996. As a lawyer, he would come to the board meetings when there were legal issues that had to be discussed so he was working with the board since 1989. Eliot has been on the YAI board for 18 years. PAGE 3
5. What does he think are the biggest challenges he has faced while being on the YAI Board? Eliot stated that the biggest challenge was after he became Chair in June 2009. December of 2009 was when the turmoil started for YAI. Eliot's biggest challenge as a new chair was dealing with this. Prior to that YAI was the gold standard in agencies, and when YAI stumbled in 2009 getting the YAI board and the agency through that took 5 years. 6. In the near future does he see Self‐Advocates joining the YAI Board? Yes. Eliot is the first Chair who talked about having self‐advocates joining the YAI board. One of Eliot's goals before he steps down from the board is to have self‐advocates represented on the YAI board. Eliot said that it's a personal project of his. Eliot stated that he feels very strongly that the board should reflect the individuals and families that we serve. Eliot thinks the self‐advocates are very capable and very aware of what's going on. American Veterans
Disabled for Life
Memorial in
Washington DC
by Ismael Nunez Washington DC is known for its historical monuments. There’s the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. To add, there is the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. There has been talk of memorials dedicated to John Adams and his family, Dwight D. Eisenhower, General Francis Marion, Gold Star Mothers National Monument (for mothers whose children died in military combat), the National Liberty Memorial (for persons of African descent who served in the American Revolution), and a Peace Corps Monument. Now for the first time it was reported by the NY Daily News on Sunday, November 9, 2014 that disabled veterans “get a small piece of DC” through the creation of the American Veterans Disabled for Life SELF ADVOCATES IN-ACTION
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Memorial! The Memorial is located at 150 Washington Ave., SW Washington, DC 20024. The Disabled Veterans' Life Memorial Foundation, Inc. made the following statement on the memorial: “Through the juxtaposition of granite and glass, the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial conveys a combination of strength and vulnerability, loss and renewal. At this sacred spot, all of us—sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, wives, husbands and friends—have the opportunity to learn the important lessons of courage, sacrifice, tenacity, loyalty and honor by bearing witness to the experiences of our heroes who are disabled.” At the dedication ceremony which took place October 5, 2014 President Obama’s speech that day stated the proud importance of the museum’s presence: “Here, in the heart of our nation’s capital, this memorial is a challenge to all of us ‐‐ a reminder of “the obligations this country is under.” And if we are to truly honor these veterans, we must heed the voices that speak to us here. Let’s never rush into war ‐‐ because it is America’s sons and daughters who bear the scars of war for the rest of their lives. Let us only send them into harm’s way when it’s absolutely necessary. Let’s always give them the strategy, the mission, and the support that they need to get the job done. Let us stand united as Americans and welcome our veteran’s home with the thanks and respect they deserve.” Several Military Disabled Veterans and supporters said the following: “The Memorial is stunning, moving & rightful. Thank you." "The Memorial is beautiful. It is a work of love." People with disabilities everywhere have a reason to visit the capitol. 4
by Allan Fraser & Car’Melo Grau Comments by Car’Melo Grau: On November 17, 2014 me and Allan Fraser had the opportunity and privilege to interview the current student intern, Christine Vyshedsky, who discussed what she has in store for the Self‐Advocates and what advice and encouragement she could give to the Self‐Advocate. So listen and learn on what she has to say... 1. Car’Melo Grau: What is your educational background? I went to school in Montclair, NJ and I have a Bachelor’s degree in Family and Child Studies and I’m currently getting my Master’s at Yeshiva University in Social Work. SELF ADVOCATES IN-ACTION
ISSUE 21, WINTER 2014-2015
2. CG: What jobs have you had before joining and interning YAI? When I was living in New Jersey I was actually a legal secretary and I did that for a few years. I then I worked as an intern during my undergraduate degree as a sex educator and health educator in Paterson, NJ. Then I came to YAI where I started working in Project A.S.S.I.S.T. while going to SW school. I spoke to Tom Ott to become an intern with the Self‐Advocacy group. 3. Allan Fraser: Who recommended you to YAI? I found it myself actually and I was looking on‐line and I saw the position and it was really interesting. 4. CG: Who referred you to this organization? I just found an ad on‐line for jobs at YAI and I read about the population and it sounded really interesting to work with this population here so here I am. 5. AF: What is your position? I am a Social Work intern with the Self‐Advocacy group as well as a Family Service specialist with Project A.S.S.I.S.T. 6. AF: What were you looking forward to in working with the Self‐Advocates? I’m looking forward to learning from them and getting to know them on a professional level and a personal level. I’m looking forward to being able to help and support them however they need to and I’m looking forward to possibly being connected with them for years to come. 7. CG: Has being a part of the Self‐Advocacy group, In My Shoes and the SA Newsletter Group inspired you to join the YAI family? Absolutely , it’s a lot of fun working withal of the people; individuals and self advocates, with staff and with people I met in the community. I definitely would want to be a part of the family. 8. CG: What advice can you give to the Self‐
Advocacy group, IMS and the Newsletter Committee? I would give the advice that everyone should definitely stay true to themselves. I’ve seen so many different personalities and they all matched PAGE 5
so well together, for the most part, that I would just say that everyone should just make sure that they always be themselves. Riker’s Island: It’s No
Place for Someone
with Mental Illness?
By Ismael Nunez THE ADDRESS: Hazen Street, East Elmhurst, NY THE PLACE: Rikers Island Correctional Facility It’s been reported it’s the second largest jail facility in the U.S. Yet there is something about the jail facility that is not being talked about; the sad and brutal treatment of prisoners with mental illness! Christopher Mathias in an article in the Huffington Post dated August 5, 2014, noted, “Rikers Island has become a psychiatric hospital from hell.” Alice Speri for Vice News reported, “In September 2013, Bradley Ballard, a mentally ill prisoner at New York’s Rikers Island jail, was found unconscious on the floor of his solitary cell — naked, covered in feces, and with his swollen and infected genitals tied in a rubber band. He died just hours after prison guards finally entered the cell and rushed him to a hospital.” The Associated Press reported that Ballard had spent a whole week in that cell in the prison’s mental observation unit, with guards passing by and looking inside but never entering to check on him! Details on the 39‐year‐old inmate’s horrifying end include the fact that Ballard was not given his medication during that week. Vice News reporter Natasha Lennard wrote an article on Jerome Murdough, who reportedly “Baked to SELF ADVOCATES IN-ACTION
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Death” in prison. The mentally‐ill 56‐year‐old died after equipment malfunction caused the temperature of his cell to rise to at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and probably even higher! The New York Times published an article in July 14th 2014 by Michael Winerip and Michael Schwirtz discussing mental illness in Rikers: “Rikers now has about as many people with mental illnesses — roughly 4,000 of the 11,000 inmates — as all 24 psychiatric hospitals in New York State combined. They make up nearly 40 percent of the jail population, up from about 20 percent eight years ago.” They add, “The jail is not equipped for them. Inmates are housed on cellblocks supervised by uniformed men and women who are often poorly trained to deal with mental illness, and rely on pepper spray, take‐down holds and fists to subdue them.” At Rikers, inmates with mental health problems are especially vulnerable, preyed upon by correction officers and other inmates. The prolonged isolation, extremes of hot and cold temperatures, interminable stretches of monotony punctuated by flashes of explosive violence can throw even the most mentally sound person off balance and quickly overcome those whose mental grip is already tenuous. One has to ask does this prison system really care about the people with disabilities in general. Something must be done! Vote On UN
Disability Treaty
By Michelle Diament; September 17, 2014 – DisABILITY Scoop An effort in the U.S. Senate to bring a vote on an international disability rights treaty has been squashed. Sen. Tom Harkin, D‐Iowa, took to the Senate floor Wednesday calling for a unanimous consent vote PAGE 6
on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The senator requested two hours of debate on the treaty with no amendments followed by an up‐or‐
down vote much like the Senate did two years ago. Within minutes, however, the plan was shot down with an objection from Sen. Mike Lee, R‐Utah, who said that two hours of debate was insufficient and indicated that amendments should be allowed. “There are a number of our colleagues, both on and off the committee, who have concerns with this treaty,” Lee said. The U.N. Convention, which establishes an international standard for disability rights similar to what’s already in place domestically through the Americans with Disabilities Act, was signed by the United States in 2009, but Senate approval is needed for ratification and official participation. The treaty is broadly supported by disability advocates and many civil rights, faith, business and veterans organizations. However, critics spearheaded by the Home School Legal Defense Association contend that the treaty would compromise U.S. sovereignty. A previous effort in 2012 to ratify the U.N. Convention failed in the Senate on a largely party‐lines vote. Harkin said it was “another sad, irresponsible day in the U.S. Senate” after Lee’s objection derailed his hope for a new vote. Earlier this week, the United Nations announced that 150 countries have ratified the disability treaty. Wheels, Balls,
Teamwork Wheelchair
Championship Game
At Citifield
By Ismael Nunez One of this reporters favorite events to report this year took place in the parking lot of Citifield home field of the New York Mets: The 14th Annual Wheelchair SELF ADVOCATES IN-ACTION
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Major League Softball Tournament which took place on September 19th 2014. That day the Chicago Cubs defeated the Boston Red Sox 14‐8 in Seven Innings. The Cubs by the fourth inning had scored 10 runs and would add 4 more, never looking back. The Red Sox came back and had several chances to add more runs, yet with good pitching and defense the Cubs held them back. As the two teams posed for photos with their trophies, volunteers being honored, that day every person with a disability was a winner! PAGE 7
“We are committed to working with our House colleagues to ensure this legislation will be passed in a bipartisan, bicameral manner and sent to the president’s desk in the lame duck session,” read the statement from Sen. Ron Wyden, D‐Ore., Sen. Orrin Hatch, R‐Utah, Sen. Bob Casey, D‐Pa., and Sen. Richard Burr, R‐N.C. Under the measure, people with disabilities would be able to create special accounts at any financial institution where they could deposit up to $14,000 annually. The ABLE accounts could accrue up to $100,000 in savings without risking an individual’s eligibility for government benefits like Social Security. What’s more, Medicaid coverage could be retained no matter how much money is deposited in the proposed accounts. Deal Reached On
Tax-Free Disability
Savings Accounts
By Michelle Diament – Disability Scoop 9/2014 Federal lawmakers say they’ve reached a deal to move forward on legislation that would establish a new way for people with disabilities to save money without jeopardizing their government benefits. Members of the U.S. Senate said Friday that they have an agreement that will allow the Achieving a Better Life Experience, or ABLE, Act to proceed. The bill’s chief sponsors and leaders of the Senate’s Committee on Finance said in a joint statement that they expect the legislation to be considered when Congress returns to Washington in November. Modeled after the popular 529 college savings plans, funds deposited in ABLE accounts could be used to pay for education, health care, transportation, housing and other expenses. Interest earned on savings within the accounts would be tax‐free. The ABLE Act has been under consideration in Congress since 2006 and is sponsored by more than half the members of both the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate. Nonetheless, when the bill was approved by a House committee in July, lawmakers indicated they would SELF ADVOCATES IN-ACTION
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Able News
need to reach an agreement on how to pay for the measure before it would be put up for a floor vote. The deal reached this week will “serve as the foundation for final passage,” the senators said. "Don't miss a single issue of ABLE Newspaper, the newspaper for, by and about the disabled. Read Able Online. Get a Free Subscription by visiting Just click the FREE ONLINE EDITIONS button at the top left of the homepage and follow the easy instructions." PAGE 8
Write your article and send it in to Tom Ott at [email protected] HTU
YAI Self‐Advocate, Mr. Chris Raso, provides this service. Contact him at 718‐510‐2562. Reasonably Priced! Guidelines for Guest Reporters 1. Article should not be longer than one page. 2. Topics should be on issues/situations/concerns that relate to other self advocates. Some examples are: ‐ Employment ‐ recognizing companies that support the hiring of self advocates ‐ Transportation issues and needs ‐ Celebrity recognition ‐ Housing ‐ applying for housing, success stories about someone who was able to access housing. ‐ Policy changes/implementations that are going to affect different services ‐ Events/Conferences that support aspects of self advocacy or important resources ‐ Relationships Email articles to Tom Ott [email protected] and the Newsletter Committee will review articles and decide on the articles that will be published in the Guest Reporter’s section. HTU
ISSUE 21, WINTER 2014-2015
Thank You Newsletter
Alicia Melendez
Alem Blount
Ismael Nunez
Terry Bryson
Robert Cardona
Allan Fraser
If you have any suggestions, let us know. We now
have an e-mail address. It is: [email protected]
Car'Melo Grau
Michael Gunther