Summer 2019 ILNC ACCESS news

2019 ILNC Fishing Derby

Independent Living of Niagara County hosted their 14th annual Bass Fishing Derby and Barbecue Fundraiser on Sunday, August 4th. Volunteer Captains launched from the Lewiston docks with anglers who spent the morning on the lower Niagara River and Lake Ontario trying to hook “the big one”.

Awards and prizes were given to anglers who caught the biggest walleyes and bass, as well as the volunteer Captains, at the awards ceremony and barbecue at the Fin, Feather and Fur Conservation Society (3F) Club afterwards. Jeff Reifensnyder won first prize for largest bass and James Usiak won first prize for largest walleye. Both were aboard Captain Ernie Calandrelli’s boat. Non-anglers also attended the barbecue that was catered by the Brickyard Pub and BBQ. There was also a basket raffle at the barbecue which helped raise money for ILNC.

For information on the 15th annual Fishing Derby to be held next year please contact Brittany Smorol at 716-284-4131 ext. 214.

Thank you to Ernie Calandrelli, Larry Balch, Jim Janese, and Nick Reinhart for volunteering your time to make our 14th annual Fishing Derby a success.

New York Connects: The Aging and Disability Resource Center

by Kim Congi

NY Connects is 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 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. Our goal is to enhance individuals’ and families’ quality of life for people of all ages with any disabilities, 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. 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 access, 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 behavioral 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

NY Connects

Addict 2 Addict (A2A) Niagara

by Desiree Wlodarek

The Addict 2 Addict (A2A) Niagara team is excited to be part of providing persons with substance use disorder multiple pathways to recovery. Most recently A2A Niagara has started a new Self-Management And Recovery Training (SMART) meeting at 140 Genesee Street in Lockport from 3:30 p.m.– 5:00 p.m. every Friday afternoon. If you are looking for a mutual help meeting that teaches science based skills with no higher power this is the meeting for you.

A2A Niagara is also looking forward to participating in the 3rd Annual Overdose Awareness Rally on August 31 at Veteran’s Park on East Avenue in Lockport. Starting at 5:00 p.m. there will be speakers, including persons in recovery, followed by a candlelight vigil and name reading of persons who have died from overdose to honor their memory. Narcan training and kits will be available. This is a great event for families to find and give support to others in the community who are experiencing similar challenges.

If you have any questions about these events or about how to help a family member, friend or you are ready for help please call our 24-confidential line at 716-394-4333 to speak with someone who has lived experience with substance use disorder.

A2A Niagara

Great Strides in Advocacy

by Mark Shaw

So far this year, Independent Living of Niagara County (in collaboration with the WNYIL, Inc. family of agencies) has made some great strides in advocacy for more people to remain or relocate into the community. One of our staff members has joined with the City of Niagara Falls Human Rights Commission to ensure that landlords are following proper rules, laws, and regulations. Various staff members are working with both the cities of Niagara Falls, as well as Lockport, to ensure the development of new programs, jobs, and physical structures are keeping within the parameters of ADA Compliance.

Health and Recovery Plans

by Lauren Ryan

Do you struggle with a mental illness and / or substance abuse? Do you wish that someone could understand what you go through on a day to day basis? Well thanks to Health and Recovery Plans, or HARPs, we are now able to have peers with mental illness, help consumers with mental illness! This is a unique relationship where one person can state that they understand what the other person is going through. This is unlike a mental health professional. The peer states to the consumer how they get through the day having a mental illness and this allows the consumer to take suggestions and apply them to their own life. In this peer counseling model, we do use evidence based techniques to counsel. How do I know I qualify? You may qualify if you have Medicaid only, are aged 21 or older and are enrolled in a health home depending on your insurance.

American Sign Language

by Jeanette Grimaldi

Did you ever want to learn a new language? What about American Sign Language (ASL)? ASL is a beautiful language to learn. ASL can be used for many reasons. One is to communicate with deaf and / or hard of hearing individuals who use ASL. Another reason is hearing babies are being taught new languages as young as 6 months. Teaching hearing babies sign language helps them communicate with parents / siblings because they cannot speak well until 18-24 months old. Independent Living of Niagara County offers ASL Classes from Beginner to Advanced.

Independent Living of Niagara County also provides a Deaf Social Support Group that meets once a month at various restaurants. ASL students are invited to attend to practice using their ASL skills. For more information please contact Jeanette Grimaldi at 716-402-5508 or email

How do deaf / hard of hearing individual communicate using telephone? One way to communicate with deaf individuals who are fluent with ASL is to use Video Phone. What is Video Phone? Video Phone is a device that assists deaf people who communicate with other deaf or hearing people. Deaf people communicate with other deaf or hearing people using an ASL interpreter on the call.

Another device is Telecaption. This is a telephone that provides captioning on the telephone. A hearing person calls the deaf / hard of hearing individuals and the phone will provide captions of what the hearing person is saying. For more information, you can contact ClearCaptions’ Douglas Braun at 716-381-7624.


MAAP: Medicaid Application Assistance Program

by Sally Perez, MAAP Facilitated Enroller

MAAP is a program that is funded through New York State Department of Health to assist individuals who are over 65, receiving Social Security Disability or are certified blind. The program is under the department of social services, which includes Community Medicaid, Medicaid buy-in program for working people with disabilities, Medicaid spend down, Managed Long-Term Care, (MLTC), and Nursing Home for individuals with a chronic care diagnosis.

WNY Independent Living, Inc. has experienced Facilitated Enrollers (FE) to assist with the Medicaid application process. Our FEs can come to you if you cannot come to us. Our agency serves Niagara, Erie, Genesee, Orleans, Wyoming, Allegany, Cattaraugus, Essex, Clinton, Chautauqua, St Lawrence, Jefferson and Lewis Counties. If you need additional information, please contact our office at 716-284-4131 ext. 517.


Independent Living Specialist and Certified Benefits Advisor

by Robert Leiter, Independent Living Specialist

My name is Robert Leiter and I work as an Independent Living Specialist and Certified Benefits Advisor for Independent Living of Niagara County. I was elected to my first of three-year terms on the New York State SRC Rehabilitation Counsel. I am on the Workforce Development Committee. I will represent the Niagara County area and will share my peer story and represent the region proudly. I hope as someone with shared experiences I can make a difference and learn things from the fine group of people on the Board. My goal is to make a difference and help break barriers for people with disabilities moving forward in their life and work. Empowerment and Advocacy plus Education are so important to me, for what I do. This is true for me personally. I was told not to try new things because I would not be successful, and why take the chance at all. In the back of my head that eventually became something I told myself. Finally, following the dignity of risk philosophy, I decided to go for it. Deep down inside I knew I could be successful. We have a great team here at the Niagara Falls office and I am so pleased to be a part of it.

Health Homes Care Coordinator

by Constance Walker, Health Home Care Coordinator for Niagara County

Hi, my name is Constance Walker and I am the Health Homes Care Coordinator at Independent Living of Niagara County. We are excited to be offering Niagara Falls Memorial Health Homes services within the Family of Agencies. As the Care Coordinator, my role is to assist consumers with linkage to Health care providers and social services agencies. I coordinate care for the consumers by keeping in consistent contact with medical providers to ensure the consumer is receiving the best care possible while living independently in the community. Our goal is to keep consumers out of institutions.

The Health Homes program was developed through the Affordable Care Act of 2010. Health Homes were established to coordinate care for people with Medicaid who have chronic medical conditions. To qualify for Health Homes services you must have Medicaid, 2 chronic conditions and / or 1 Mental Health Diagnosis or HIV / AIDS. If you are unsure if you qualify for Health Homes services, please contact me at 716-284-4131 ext. 210.

Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Services (CDPAS)

by Joseph Mitravich, Niagara County Personal Assistant Coordinator

Hi, I’m Joseph Mitravich; CDPAS Personal Assistant Coordinator for ILNC. I’m responsible all the Personal Care Assistants 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 PCA’s is the choice to receive their pay on a Rapid Paycard. This has eliminated paper checks for the majority of the PCA’s. This provides the PCA’s with a more efficient means to receive their pay, along with the many technological advancements the card offers. On-line banking to 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 PCA’s pay. Money can be added to the account electronically at the touch of a button, and the PCA’s do not have to wait for another check to come by mail to resolve the issue. The majority of PCA’s 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 PCA’s coming into the department. In a collaborative effort with CDPAS Administrator Dori Parry, and department Administrative Assistant, Julie Bunker, we cohesively work together to effectively serve ILNC’s consumer along with their PCA’s in the Taking Control program.

Taking Control

Open Doors/Money Follows the Person

by Gerilyn Capps-Anderson, Open Doors Transition Coordinator

Open Doors / Money Follows the Person (MFP) is a federal demonstration project that provides support for home and community-based services. After a person moves out of institutional care back into the community the Open Doors / MFP reimburses the state which increases the available services in home and in the community. This demonstration project has provided me with insights on how funding goes back into the community and will continue to be a resource for home-based services.

While working with MFP program I have learned some people are placed prematurely in these nursing facilities for long term care. In certain instances, individuals are sent to the nursing home for rehabilitation or recovery from some sort of procedure or illness that can provide physical improvements when rehab is performed. Through seen and unforeseen circumstances, sometimes recovery turns into long term care.

As a transition specialist, I assist residents to move back into the community and connect them with care that would meet their level of need. Participants ideally would have health care needs that can be met through services available in the community. Some resident’s health conditions have declined or deteriorated for many reasons while in institutional care. Even family and loved ones have put them out of their minds because it would seem that a facility is the best place for them. My role and goal for those that are still able to live and thrive in the community safely with community-based support services, is to allow them to do so.

Open Doors

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Thank you Gala sponsors

Miranda Real Estate






Frank's Mobil




Kideney Architects


Main Mobility


Philadelphia Insurance Companies





Blue Cross Blue Shield


Clauss & Company


EFPR Group




Health Works


M&T Bank

Niagara Frontier Radio Reading Service




Seneca Resorts & Casinos


United Healthcare

Assembly Member Angelo Morinello
Integrity Health Group
Long Associates Architects
New York State Senator Chris Jacobs
New York State Senator Timothy M. Kennedy
Queen City Imaging
The Arc of Genesee Orleans

We hope to see you next year at our 7th Annual
A Night for Independence Gala!