ILNC ACCESS news Autumn 2018

New York Connects: The Aging and Disability Resource Center

by Kim Congi, NY Connects, Independent Living Specialist

NY Connects is people connecting people to long term services and supports in Niagara County. Independent Living Specialists provide information, referrals and application assistance accessible by phone or in person. We meet with individuals at our office located at 746 Portage Road in Niagara Falls, in the community or in their home. Our hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. Our goal is to enhance individuals and families quality of life for people of all ages with any disability, practicing the principles of education, empowerment and equality.

Please call us or tell a friend or family member that we are here and ready to assist 716-284-4131 ext. 218. If you have questions we will help you to identify services and supports by reviewing all available options. For example, personal care services, transportation, home safety and accessibility to stay independent.

We work as a single point of entry, or no wrong door to meet social and medical needs of individuals by bridging gaps in the system with seamless connections, information, education and decision-making support including behavior health/developmental supports and services.

NY Connects also participates in the Long Term Care Council which comes up with solutions that can help individuals stay in their homes and in their communities and avoid unnecessary institutionalization. NY Connects can help get answers about Medicare, Medicaid guidelines, and other benefits.

Local toll free 1-888-564-5171 or visit our website

More about NY Connects

by Shatel Krentz

Have you ever had a situation that made you feel stuck? Possibly your mother or grandma needed services at home or maybe you need some government assistance and do not have any idea where to start? Your local office of NY Connects can help you with this. The information and referral program can assist with all ages in your local county. NY Connects helps their community by providing free, comprehensive, objective information and assistance about long term services and supports. The specific subjects NY Connects specializes in is public education, long term care councils and options counseling. These three subjects are the key fundamental components in which the public is needing assistance with NY Connects empowers individuals and families to identify available services and supports and select the best decision for their needs at home and in the community. Connect with your local NY Connect staff today by calling 716-284-4131 or visiting our office at 746 Portage Rd., Niagara Falls, NY 14301 by appointment. Hope to hear from you today!

MAAP Program

by Sally Perez, Facilitated Enroller

MAAP stands for: Medicaid Application Assistance program

My job is unique in so many ways, I have the privilege of going to a consumers’ homes and assisting them with their Medicaid application process. This helps those folks who could not travel otherwise because of their physical challenges. During the appointment, I go over the benefits of Medicaid, consumers are surprised at how Medicare and Medicaid coordinate the benefits they need for their daily living routine. So many are relieved that they can get assistance, whether it is with aide service to assist with bathing or house chores or therapies offered in their home like physical therapy, occupational therapy; this makes it convenient rather than a burden to go to a doctor appointment. As I finalized the appointment and I see the weight on their faces just disappear that there is light at the other end of the tunnel. 

Success Stories

by Mark Shaw, Independent Living Specialist/Systems Advocate 

I have a couple success stories in finding Personal Assistants for individuals that we serve. I have faced multiple challenges along the way, including Personal Assistants hanging up on me, some say they are coming for an interview and not show up for it, among other challenges. However, I did not let that leave me feeling defeated and kept calling others as well as posting ads. Well, the hard work paid off and I received a message from one consumer that her entire schedule had been filled up now. And within a week I had another consumer call and tell me that she had found an assistant after more than a year and multiple Independent Living Specialists and other staff assisting her. 

Independent Living Specialist

by Robert Leiter, Independent Living Specialist/Benefits Advisor

I work as an Independent Living Specialist and Benefits Advisor for Independent Living of Niagara County. I have assisted consumers with redetermination appeals when they are not considered disabled, after they turn 18 years of age. I also assist consumers with applying for SSI or Title II benefits, and other appeal paper work. I meet consumers where they are and verify their benefits plus the consumer sets their goals. Sometimes I am just providing information on their Title II benefits, and how the Ticket to Work program works. How they can still work, and get both their disability benefits, and pay check for a long period of time. I empower my consumers to be the ones making all the decisions in every part of the process. They are in the driver’s seat. I let them know that there is hope, and work can mean so much more to them if that is what they choose. Work can bring a new sense of hope, and empowerment while providing inclusion in the community where they can make new friends and be part of a team. I share my own personal peer experiences with my consumers. I, as an Independent Living Specialist, and Peer Counselor can connect with people on their terms to share mutual or similar experiences with out keeping a professional distance. The consumers set their own goals, it is not clinical, it is 100 percent based on their own want and needs. They tell me how they want their goals written, and we develop a plan of action. If a goal is not successful, our consumers never have to feel like they will be told “I told you so” all we will say is what do you want to try now.  

Addict 2 Addict Niagara

by Desiree Wlodarek, Addict 2 Addict Niagara, Peer Advocate

Addict 2 Addict of Niagara County is a peer service to help people who want help to stop drinking/drugging. The A2A team are Desiree Wlodarek and Doug Bishop, both have significant recovery and enjoy the opportunity to share their experience to help others. Most recently A2A has partnered with Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center to provide support to persons in the emergency department looking for help to make positive changes in their life surrounding their choices with substances. They have also assisted in linkages to rapid access medically assisted treatment, stabilization program, outpatient, mutual support meetings and 12 step groups. As peers the team is in a unique position to supplement tradition treatment methods in a way that gives hope and shows that change is possible. The team is available 24 hours a day by calling the hotline at 716-398-4333 and serves all of Niagara County.  

Personal Care Assistants

by Joseph Mitravich, ILNC, CDPAS, Personal Assistant Coordinator

Fall is here. Hi I’m Joseph Mitravich; CDPAS Personal Assistant Coordinator for ILNC. I oversee all the Personal Care Assistants (PCAs) in Niagara County who assist the Consumers in the Taking Control Department. Affording them the ability to live in the community of their choice as independently as possible within Niagara County. 

New this year for our PCAs is the choice to receive their pay on a Rapid Paycard. This has eliminated paper checks for the majority of the PCAs. This provides the PCAs with a more efficient means to receive their pay, along with the many technological advancements the card offers. On-line banking where they can see and manage their bank account. A GPS locater that shows them where the nearest in network ATM is located. Also, this provides Payroll the ability to more quickly adjust any mistakes that might have been made with the PCAs pay. Money can be added to the account electronically at the touch of a button, and the PCAs do not have to wait for another check to come by mail to resolve the issue. Majority have opted to use the Rapid Paycards and seem to be very happy with the change.

The ILNC’s Taking Control Department has seen a steady growth in regard to new consumers and PCAs coming into the department. In a collaborative effort with CDPAS Administrator Dori Parry, department Administrative Assistant Nancy Lang, and our new file clerk Julie Bunker, we cohesively work together to effectively serve ILNC’s consumer along with their PCA’s in the Taking Control program.

Taking Control

by Dori Parry, ILNC, CDPAS, Administrator 

The Niagara County Taking Control Program continues to grow. Anyone who is Medicaid eligible for Personal Assistant Services can become a part of our Taking Control Program. This program allows someone with a disability to be the supervisor of their own personal assistant services. The Consumer can hire who the like, with a few restrictions, train them in areas that are important to them, maintain their own schedule and supervise their work daily. 

The Consumer must be “self-directing”, meaning they must be able to understand the decisions about their medical needs and implement them. If they don’t believe they are self-directing, they can designate someone who is.

We also can link this program with all our other Niagara County Independent Living services.

Do You Want To Learn A New Language? How about learning American Sign Language?

by Jeanette Grimaldi, Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services Coordinator

Independent Living of Niagara County offers American Sign Language Classes. It is an 8 week class that meets weekly. Classes are offered in two locations: Independent Living of Niagara County, 746 Portage Road, Niagara Falls, NY and Christ Community Church, 140 Genesee Street, Lockport, NY.  

Starting week of October 22, 2018
Beginner I — October 24th to December 12, 2018 —  this class meets every Wednesday from 6:00 — 7:00 p.m. at Independent Living of Niagara County, 746 Portage Road, Niagara Falls.

Beginner 1 —  November 1st to December 20, 2018 —  this class meets every Thursday from 3:00 —  4:00 p.m. at Christ Community Church, 140 Genesee Street, Lockport.
Class fee for 8 weeks and book is $45. For more information, please contact Jeanette Grimaldi at 716-402-5508 or email Please RVSP by October 15th. 

Home and Community Based Services

by Lauren Ryan, Independent Living Specialist and Peer Specialist

Are you in need of additional mental health treatment? Would you like to have that service within your own home? HCBS stands for Home and Community Based Services, which means services that can take place within your own home. When it comes to mental health there is a plan within Medicaid called HARP, which stands for Health and Recovery Plan. This recovery plan is a mental health portion of Medicaid, which allows for those with chronic mental health issues to receive additional mental health services. For those that qualify for HARP, they must be within a Health Home and over the age of 21. HARP is an interesting program where a person with lived mental health experience, works with someone that needs help within their own mental health. This is a peer program because it’s one New York State Certified Peer helping another peer in their mental health journey. It is a unique connection that cannot be found in a professional relationship. In this rapport, the certified peer talks about their own experience and how they manage their own mental health through evidence-based techniques in hopes that it will help benefit the person they are serving.

ILNC Meet the Candidates Day

Thursday, October 25, 2018

2:00 p.m. — 4:00 p.m.

746 Portage Rd., Niagara Falls, NY 14301

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