SPEAKERS

Jason Beasom
Chief Deputy Warden, Allegheny County Jail
Legislative Panel: Disability and Mental Health Needs of Incarcerated People

Jason P. Beasom was promoted to Chief Deputy Warden for Jail Operations in June 2021. Beasom joined the Allegheny County Jail as a Captain in 2014, following 15 years with the Erie County Department of Corrections. He was promoted to Major in October 2015 and was named Deputy Warden of Jail Operations in March 2018.

Chief Deputy Beasom began his career in corrections in 1999 with the Erie County Department of Corrections as a Correctional Officer trainee. He achieved CO1 status in 2000. CO2 ranking in 2001 and was promoted to the rank of Captain in 2009. Chief Deputy Beasom returned to the Pittsburgh area when he was hired at the Allegheny County Jail in 2014.

Chief Deputy Beasom graduated in 1999 from the Pennsylvania State Corrections Academy at Mercyhurst College where he achieved the class firearms proficiency award, scoring an average of 99.73 percent accuracy. His additional training includes FEMA incident command systems, IRS financial investigative techniques, Regional Gang Awareness conferences and other various corrections-based leadership and training courses.

He is also a member of Pennsylvania Prison Wardens Association, the Pennsylvania County Corrections Association, and the Allegheny County Jail’s Honor Guard team.

A graduate of Plum Borough High School, he earned a bachelor degree in criminal justice from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania.

 


 

Joyce Bender
CEO of Bender Consulting Services, Inc., & The Bender Leadership Academy
Breakout Session: #NotAshamed: PRIDE in the Intersectionality of Mental Health & LGBTQ+

Joyce Bender is the Founder and CEO of Bender Consulting Services, Inc., and The Bender
Leadership Academy, located in Pittsburgh, PA. As a woman living with disabilities, her focus for both organizations is competitive employment for people with disabilities. She works tirelessly to break down the barriers and stigma that exist for people with disabilities. Joyce serves as the Chair of the Epilepsy Association of Western and Central PA, the Vice-Chair of the American Association of People with Disabilities, on the President’s Advisory Board for Carlow University, as a Trustee for The Bazelon Center on Mental Health Law, World Institute on Disability (WID), Homeless Children’s Education Fund, Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera (CLO), Disability Rights of PA, and the Advisory Board of the FDR Memorial Legacy Committee. Joyce has served as a disability employment expert for the U.S. State Department in Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Panama, Kazakhstan, Tunisia, Libya, and Nigeria. She has been featured in periodicals including Reader’s Digest, New York Times, Investor’s Business Daily, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and Chicago Tribune. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology from Geneva College. She has hosted the radio show, Disability Matters with Joyce Bender, on voiceamerica.com for over twenty years.

 


 

Matthew Berwick
Senior Program Manager, Disability Accommodations for Clinical Services, UPMC
Breakout Session: Individual Advocacy and Systemic Change in Healthcare

Matthew Berwick currently serves as the Senior Program Manager, Disability Accommodations
for Clinical Services, at the UPMC Health System in the Disabilities Resource Center and teaches part-time at the University of Pittsburgh. Matthew has worked in the area of disability services for over a decade, serving on local, state and national boards for people with disabilities, and currently serves on The Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Spinal Cord Research Advisory Committee, as the President of the United Spinal Association of Pittsburgh, and as a board member for many other organizations. Prior to joining UPMC, Matthew worked in higher education and as a Youth Specialist focusing on youth transition services. Matthew has a B.A. in Elementary Education, an M.A. in Adult Learning and Training and an M.S. in Health Informatics. In addition to the work Matthew does, he is very active in the Pittsburgh disability sports community and advocating in many areas for people with disabilities.

 


 

Patrick Brier, Esq.
Counsel, Myers, Brier & Kelly, LLP
Virtual Kickoff Session: Advocates’ Perspective of State Budget for Disability and Mental Health

Patrick Brier, Esq., is Counsel to Myers, Brier & Kelly, LLP. He concentrates his practice in health law, with decades of experience in statutory and regulatory analysis. He represents public health organizations, managed care companies as well as providers of behavioral health services. Pat also represents community providers serving the intellectual and developmentally disabled communities. With a specialty in healthcare compliance, he assists clients with state expansion strategies as well as regulatory implementation.

Pat also completed a Master of Science in Health Informatics (MSHI) Degree from Temple University’s School of Public Health in 2019 which studies health data standards, analytics as well as database administration.  Pat works with stakeholders in healthcare including providers, health insurers, hospitals, consumers and public officials to prepare for ongoing changes to physical and behavioral health. He is a member of the American Health Law Association. He recently served on Governor Shapiro’s Human Services Advisory Transition Committee. He is a former law clerk to the Honorable Richard P. Conaboy, United States District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania.

 


 

Mae Buckley, MSW
Early Reach Coordinator, OVR
Breakout Session: An Early Reach into Transition

Mae Buckley has been an Early Reach Coordinator at Pittsburgh OVR since October 2023. They received their MSW from the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work and went to Point Park University for their BA in Secondary English Education. Mae has a diverse history with working with children and adolescents in the school and community. Prior to OVR they worked as foster care case worker and coordinated group homes for adults with disabilities.

 


 

Mary Carroll
Foster Parent
Legislative Panel: Mental Health and Foster Care: Unmet Needs and Untapped Opportunity

Mary Carroll and her partner Lee have been foster parents with Every Child for four years and have opened their home to a six children, including older youth and sibling groups.  They have experienced first-hand the challenges of accessing and assuring continuity of quality mental health care for youth in care.

 


 

Desireé Chang, M.S.
Director of Education, PA Human Relations Commission
Breakout Session: Protections for Individuals with Disabilities under the Law

Desireé Chang serves as the Director of Education for the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. She has been with the PHRC for three years. Prior to becoming the Director of Education, she worked as a Civil Rights Mediator with the Mediation Division. During her tenure at the PHRC, Chang has received the Director of Excellence Award (2020) and PHRC Social Justice Team Award (2021). She is a graduate of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership Institute (2021) and has been recognized for her participation on several committees and community social justice collaborative efforts.

Prior to the PHRC, she worked as an adult Probation and Parole Officer with a specialized caseload of individuals with developmental and mental health disabilities. In addition, she has a background in substance abuse counseling. She has served as a facilitator for trauma informed responses and has been a certified trainer in Motivational Interviewing and Moral Recognition Therapy. She enjoys public speaking and volunteering at women's shelters. Much of Chang’s professional career has been in roles that include assistance for, or advocating of, special interest groups. Her passions are married at the PHRC with the ability to educate Pennsylvanians and actively work towards eradicating discrimination both inside and outside of the Commonwealth.

Chang’s educational acquisitions include an Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice, summa cum laude, obtained from HACC Lancaster, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Master of Legal Studies from Drexel University, both magna cum laude. She is a member of several academic honor societies.

 


 

Lindsay Coulehan, MSW, LSW
Early Reach Coordinator, OVR
Breakout Session: An Early Reach into Transition

Lindsay began her employment with OVR on October 15, 2018. She joins the Pittsburgh District Office team as an Early Reach Coordinator. Lindsay graduated from The University of Pittsburgh earning both her bachelor's degree and master's degree in social work. After graduation, Lindsay earned her License in Social Work from the State of Pennsylvania. Lindsay has extensive experience working with youth in the mental health field in Pittsburgh. Lindsay has worked as a Behavioral Specialist Consultant/ Mobile Therapist, a Family Based Therapist, and as a School Based Mental Health Therapist before joining the OVR team as an Early Reach Coordinator.

 


 

Vincent DeMarco, MSPT, ATP
Complex Rehabilitation Services, Grand View Health
Legislative Panel: Access to Quality Assurance Checks for Complex Wheelchair Users

Vincent DeMarco, MSPT, ATP, oversees the Complex Rehabilitation Services within the Post-Acute care division of Grand View Health located in Sellersville, PA. On behalf of Grand View Health, this service has provided nearly 700 specially designed wheelchairs and maintenance for those individuals with special needs. He was awarded Vendor of the Year for outstanding service and patient care.

Vincent’s academic education led him to the healthcare profession, where he has provided multiple services for the past 30 years. Presently, as a licensed Physical Therapist and Assistive Technology Professional, he has experienced great satisfaction serving others who require complex wheelchairs to improve their function, mobility safety and independence within their community.

 


 

Patrick DeMico
Executive Director, The Provider Alliance
Virtual Kickoff Session: Advocates’ Perspective of State Budget for Disability and Mental Health

Patrick DeMico is Executive Director of The Provider Alliance (TPA), a Pennsylvania association dedicated exclusively to supporting community services for individuals and families with intellectual disability and autism (ID/A). DeMico has worked in the ID/A field for over 40 years, beginning his service as a Direct Support Professional in 1982. He has held leadership positions in the provider community, consulted for human services organizations on financial management and strategy, and represented the ID/A community in its advocacy and policy development. He is a graduate of Duquesne University and earned his MBA from the University of Pittsburgh. He has served The Provider Alliance and its membership in his current role since 2017.

 


 

Paul Dlugolecki
Chair, National Association of Legislative Fiscal Officers
Virtual Kickoff Session: Advocates’ Perspective of State Budget for Disability and Mental Health

 Paul Dlugolecki is one of the most recognizable figures in Pennsylvania politics, with unmatched experience and dynamic relationships on both sides of the aisle. Paul served as the executive director of the Pennsylvania Senate Appropriations Committee for 22 years, and before that, spent eight years as director of research for the Senate Democratic Caucus.

Recently, Paul was on the Board of Governors State System of Higher Education, serving as Chairman of the Information Technology Committee and Chairman of the Audit Committee. He is chairman of both the National Association of Legislative Fiscal Officers (NALFO) and the Eastern States Legislative Fiscal Officers Association (ESLFOA). Paul is a member of the executive committee for both the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and the Eastern Regional Conference of Council of State Governments (ERCCSG). Until recently, Paul was a Senior Vice President at Wojdak and Associates. Paul has been named to the PA Power 50 multiple times, recognizing him as among the state’s top politically influential personalities. Paul specializes in regulatory affairs, legislation, appropriations, and lobbying.

 


 

Richard Edley, Ph.D
Lead Executive, Rehabilitation and Community Providers Association
Virtual Kickoff Session: Advocates’ Perspective of State Budget for Disability and Mental Health

Richard S. Edley, Ph.D., is the lead executive for the Rehabilitation and Community Providers Association (RCPA) in Pennsylvania, one of the largest state trade associations in the country representing providers of mental health, substance use disorder, intellectual and developmental disabilities, children’s, brain injury, medical and pediatric rehabilitation, criminal and juvenile justice, and physical disabilities and aging services, across all settings and levels of care. The association includes over 380 members and organizations.

His professional career began in 1988, and prior to leading the association, he was President and CEO of PerformCare/Community Behavioral HealthCare Network of Pennsylvania (CBHNP), a national, full-service, behavioral health managed care organization. Most recently, Dr. Edley was named to the Board of Directors of the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, a Washington, DC-based organization representing behavioral health providers and associations throughout the country. He also is a member of the PA Medical Assistance Advisory Committee (MAAC) and numerous other state task forces. In 2022, Dr. Edley was asked to serve as a member of the Human Services Transition Team for PA Governor-elect Josh Shapiro. He served on the IDD Legislative Task Force and is a governor appointed member to both the Employment First Commission and the BH Advisory Committee.

Dr. Edley’s baccalaureate degree is from Boston University, and he holds master’s and doctorate degrees in clinical psychology from Emory University. He was an intern and post-doctoral fellow at McLean Hospital, where he held a faculty appointment at Harvard Medical School, Department of Psychiatry. Dr. Edley is a national presenter and is published in a broad variety of health care areas.

 


 

Adrian Garcia
Director of Enforcement Division, PA Human Relations Commission
Breakout Session: Protections for Individuals with Disabilities under the Law

Adrian Garcia serves as PHRC’s Director of Enforcement Division and has enjoyed a long career focused on assuring equal consideration and representation at every level. Experience in human relations, advertising, marketing, insurance and financial products and his degree from Palmer Business Institute have allowed him to serve his community locally and beyond – always with a focus on markets of inclusion.

As Specialty Marketing Manager for Advance Auto Parts (AAP), Garcia chaired the Diversity and Inclusion Work Group which worked on ensuring fair representation in the hiring and promoting of a diverse staff in their retail and corporate divisions.

After 5 years with AAP, Garcia returned to Lancaster, PA where he worked as Development Officer for the local Hispanic Public Radio Station, SACA Broadcast Station Corporation. Garcia was subsequently hired as an Intake officer of the Lancaster County Human Relations Commission, and later became an investigator working on employment discrimination cases and assisting as an interpreter for housing cases, which included translating complaints and other documents. He translated the Landlord/Tenants Rights and Responsibilities Manual, which is now known as the Know Your Rights Landlord and Tenant Guide. Garcia was the Education Committee Liaison working with over 15 school districts throughout Lancaster County.

In 2016, Garcia joined Lancaster Housing Opportunity Partnership (LHOP) as its director of Housing Equality & Equity Institute, where he led the effort of Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing through programmatic advocacy where Garica sought ways to breathe life into the AFFH. In 2018 Garcia applied for and secured the Fair Housing Initiatives Program designation from HUD. This was a game changer as it allowed LHOP to expand its fair housing education and outreach initiatives in York County including The Rental Advantage Course and the Eviction Prevention Network. For these programs Garcia received the 2019 Innovator Award from Fine Dining Lancaster Magazine. The Eviction Prevention Network model has become the framework for addressing COVID19 evictions.

 


 

Jessica Gardner
Self-advocate
Legislative Panel: Access to Quality Assurance Checks for Complex Wheelchair Users

Jessica Gardner resides in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. In 2009, she obtained her Associate Degree in Human Services. After graduation, she volunteered for Asera Care Hospice and Alternative Community Resources Program (ACRP) for several years.

She prides herself in being an advocate and an active member of the disability community. In 2021, she was crowned Ms. Wheelchair Pennsylvania with an advocacy platform of working to eliminate service dog fraud. Currently, she has taken a leadership role in the Ms. Wheelchair Organization as the Ambassador coordinator. For the past several years, she’s been involved in the United Spinal organization and serves as the Chapter Advocacy Coordinator for the South Central Pennsylvania Chapter. In 2016, she graduated with her service dog, Ford, from Canine Companions.

One of her many passions is to raise awareness about service dogs and promote the nonprofit organization. She actively helps propel their mission by being the Graduate Liaison for the Western Pennsylvania Chapter and serving on the Canine Companions North Central Region Outreach Committee. In her free time, she enjoys reading, shopping, attending church, and spending time with friends, family, and her significant other, Anthony.

 


 

Brett Glavey, MSW, LSW
Early Reach Coordinator, OVR
Breakout Session: An Early Reach into Transition

Brett Glavey is a Licensed Social Worker in PA and has been an Early Reach Coordinator at Pittsburgh OVR since April 2015. He graduated from Westminster College, and the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work. Prior to being employed at OVR, he worked as a Caseworker for Allegheny County CYF.

 


 

Eric Golden, M.D., M.B.A.
Medical Director of PsychCare Plus, UPMC Western Psychiatric Hospital
Breakout Session: The Loneliness Epidemic: Embracing the Power of Social Connection

Eric Golden, M.D., M.B.A, is a board-certified psychiatrist and assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He practices at UPMC (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center) Western Psychiatric Hospital, where he is the Medical Director of PsychCare Plus which handles psychiatric admissions and referrals for the UPMC system. One of his passions is caring for individuals at the intersection of physical and mental health.

 


 

Scott Hammerstrom
Manager of Programs & Partnerships, The Bender Leadership Academy
Breakout Session: #NotAshamed: PRIDE in the intersectionality of Mental Health & LGBTQ+

Scott Hammerstrom is the Manager of Programs and Partnerships at The Bender Leadership Academy. He oversees competency building programs that enable students with disabilities to engage in educational, empowerment, and work-readiness opportunities with a focus on setting and achieving career journey goals. Scott collaborates closely with educators, businesses, and students to ensure programs maintain a high standard of excellence, resulting in meaningful growth for students with disabilities. Additionally, he is responsible for program growth and community relationships to expand Bender Leadership Academy outreach. Prior to joining Bender Leadership Academy, Scott was a Talent Programs Team Lead responsible for connecting talent from the disability community with public and private-sector employer partners, supporting long-term disability recipients with return-to-work planning, and workplace mentoring at Bender Consulting Services. Scott has served as the regional coordinator for Disability Mentoring Day, partnering with AAPD and greater-Pittsburgh area employers for the past 16 years. Prior to joining Bender, Scott worked for Best Buddies Pennsylvania as a Program Supervisor and the Arthritis Foundation of Western, PA. as Director of Programs. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Robert Morris College.

 


 

Ashley Harland
Early Childhood Policy Manager, Trying Together
Breakout Session: Don’t Count Me Out! Reducing Early Childhood Suspension and Expulsion

Ashley Harland has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from John Carroll University and a Master’s of Education in Early Intervention from the University of Pittsburgh. Across the past 16 years, Ashley has served in various roles in early care and education, early intervention, and
special education. Currently, in the position of PN-3 Early Childhood Policy Manager at Trying Together, Ashley advocates for equitable access to positive early childhood development opportunities, with a focus on prenatal – 3 systems. Outside of work, Ashley and her spouse are the parents to a 5-year-old. They have utilized early care and education as well as early intervention to support their family’s overall well-being.

 


 

Sara Innamorato
Allegheny County Executive
Keynote Address: Allegheny County Disability and Mental Health Goals and Priorities

Sara Innamorato was sworn in as Allegheny County Executive on January 2, 2024. Prior to winning the election for County Executive, she served in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives after securing an overwhelming majority and winning the election for the 21st District seat in 2018.

Representative Sara Innamorato served as the Vice-Chair of the Allegheny County Delegation and as a member of committees for House Finance; Labor and Industry; Transportation; Health; and Housing and Community Development. Sara is a founding member of the Welcoming PA Caucus and the Pittsburgh City-wide Task Force on Employee Ownership, and she served as Treasurer of the Urban Redevelopment Authority and Vice Chair of the Allegheny County Housing Authority.

As State Representative, she introduced dozens of bills, leading the effort to increase the supply of affordable housing, raise the minimum wage, secure environmental protections, compassionately address the opioid epidemic, establish the first Office of New Pennsylvanians, create a Working Families Tax Credit, and protect reproductive healthcare. In 2022, the legislature passed Sara’s Whole Home Repairs legislation which distributed $125M in critical funding to keep seniors, and those facing housing insecurity, in their homes while investing in climate resilience and local workforce development.

Sara is a lifelong resident of Allegheny County, currently residing in Upper Lawrenceville. She is a graduate of North Hills High School and graduated from the University of Pittsburgh’s College of Business Administration.

 


 

Jeff Iseman
Public Policy and Outreach Coordinator for PA SILC
Breakout Session: Transportation: Issues, Advocacy and Resources

Jeff Iseman serves as the Public Policy and Outreach Coordinator for PA SILC (2007-2017, 2019 – Present). He has been an active member of the PA Transportation Alliance, Disability Budget Coalition and various other stakeholder groups related to Pennsylvania disability public policy (including transportation, employment, home and community-based services, voting; and other IL issues) along with the National Council on Independent Living (NCIL).

Jeff is a lifelong Pennsylvanian and graduate of both Shippensburg University (MPA) and Grove City College (B.A.). In 2005, he relocated to Central PA after living in SWPA following a short stint in the Greater Philadelphia (SEPA) Region. Prior to the PA SILC, Iseman worked at The Arc of PA in Public Policy & Systems Advocacy and for Congresswoman Melissa Hart as a Constituent Services Representative. Jeff has served as Direct Supports staff in the mental health, intellectual and physical disabilities / seniors HCBS systems. He also has had roles with the PA Partnerships for Children, Disability Rights PA, CIL of North Central PA, Merakey, and the United Disabilities Services Foundation.

 


 

Stephen Katich
Vice President of Government Relations and Legislative Affairs, Blackburn’s
Legislative Panel: Access to Quality Assurance Checks for Complex Wheelchair Users

Stephen “Skip” Katich has worked in the HME and Pharmacy industry for 42 years. He’s currently the VP of Government Relations and Legislative affairs with Blackburn’s, where he works on Pennsylvania and federal issues within Pennsylvania Medical Assistance, Insurance and CMS.  Skip is currently an Executive Board member of the Pennsylvania Association of Medical Suppliers (PAMS), and he chairs the Medical Assistance Committee. He also serves on the AAHomecare Medical Supply Committee and the United Spinal Committee.

 


 

Renee Madden
Deputy Health Services Administrator of Behavioral Health, Allegheny County Jail
Legislative Panel: Disability and Mental Health Needs of Incarcerated People

 


 

Jessica Maher, PsyD, NCSP
Provider, Psychological Perspectives
Breakout Session: Diagnosed as an Autistic Adult

Dr. Jessica Maher PsyD, NCSP is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist and pending licensed psychologist. Over the past 15 years, Dr. Maher has provided clinical services in a variety of settings including hospitals, community agencies, and schools. She has worked with children, adolescents, and adults with a variety of presenting concerns, including behavioral management, learning disabilities, anxiety, depression, trauma, developmental disabilities, autism, and complex medical needs. Dr. Maher provides psychological and (school) neuropsychological assessment services, as well as individual counseling for children, adolescents, and adults.

 


 

Laura A. Maines, Esq.
Chief Executive Officer, Every Child Inc.
Legislative Panel: Mental Health and Foster Care: Unmet Needs and Untapped Opportunity

After completing law school at Duquesne University School of Law, Laura served as a litigation attorney with one of Pittsburgh’s largest law firms. In 2010, Laura left private practice and took a position as General Counsel and Director of Funding and Public Affairs for a large Pittsburgh-based social service agency. In addition to overseeing the agency’s fundraising efforts, Laura advocated at the state level for public policy that works for our Commonwealth’s vulnerable children and preserves vital safety net services. In 2014, Laura was named Chief Executive Officer of Every Child, Inc. where she continues to advocate for children and steward sustainable, high quality services to ensure each and every child has an opportunity to thrive. A member of the Pennsylvania Council for Child Youth and Family Services  Board of Directors since 2017, Laura serves as Vice Chair of the Board, Chair of the Public Policy Committee and is the Western Region Chair.

 


 

Lucas Malishchak, BA, MA, DBA
Director, Pennsylvania Department of Corrections’ Psychology Office
Legislative Panel: Disability and Mental Health Needs of Incarcerated People

Dr. Lucas Malishchak has served as director of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections’ Psychology Office since September 2018, having served as acting director since October 2017. As director of the Psychology Office, he is responsible for the oversight and direction of psychology services delivered in the PA DOC, including services provided to approximately 14,000 inmates and work performed by more than 300 mental health care professionals. Malishchak directly manages this centralized and statewide administrative oversight responsibility by supervising a team of four clinical psychologists (i.e., regional licensed psychologist managers) and a corrections treatment program services administrator.

Malishchak began his DOC career in November 2010 as a psychological services associate at SCI Dallas and was promoted to that prison’s psychological services specialist (PSS) and mental health coordinator one year later. In these positions, he was responsible for providing mental health services and treatment, including performing evaluations, developing treatment plans, facilitating group sessions, and serving as a liaison with the DOC’s mental health provider to approximately 400 inmates.

In June 2013, Malishchak was named corrections evaluation supervisor/mental health program manager at the DOC’s Psychology Office, where he worked with a team of regional licensed psychologist managers to oversee the delivery of mental health services to DOC inmates. In this position, Malishchak’s responsibilities included providing oversight of mental health services delivered to all DOC inmates. He developed a statewide quality improvement mechanism to monitor compliance with a settlement agreement with the Disabilities Rights Network (now Disability Rights Pennsylvania), who sued the department for what it believed was inadequate mental health services provided to seriously mentally ill inmates in restrictive housing units.

While working for the DOC in June 2016, Malishchak also served as an instructor for the National Institute of Corrections. Specifically, he was a national subject matter expert and instructor in mental health services for inmates housed in restrictive housing/administrative segregation units.

Malishchak earned a Bachelor of Arts in clinical psychology from Moravian College, a Master of Arts in psychology from Marywood University, and a Doctor of Business Administration, specializing in criminal justice from Northcentral University. Malishchak’s doctoral dissertation was titled Alternatives to Segregation and Seriously Mentally Ill Inmates in Pennsylvania State Prisons: A Case Study of Employee Perceptions.

 


 

Andria McCourt, MSW, LSW
Early Reach Coordinator, OVR
Breakout Session: An Early Reach into Transition

Andria McCourt is a Licensed Social Worker in PA and has been an Early Reach Coordinator at Pittsburgh OVR since July 2018. She received her MSW from the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work and went to Geneva College for her undergrad. Andria has an extensive history with working with children and adolescents. Prior to OVR she worked as a mental health therapist and a service coordinator.

 


 

Shawn McGill, MSW
Founder and CEO, Shawn McGill Consulting
Breakout session: Dating for People with a Diagnosis

Shawn is the founder and CEO of Shawn McGill Consulting, Inc., a for-profit organization supporting people who are neurodiverse, with a focus on those who are underserved or present with “clinical complexities.” The company primarily supports Pennsylvania but has provided consultation across the United States and in various other countries.

In his previous clinical roles, Shawn was responsible for developing clinical programming with a large non-profit organization in the Pittsburgh area. Efforts have been and continue to focus on historically underserved people. This includes but is not limited to individuals who have been incarcerated, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, or those on the autism spectrum, as well as those who are members of the LGBTQIA+ community.

Shawn is a board member of Metro Community Health and Creative Citizens Studio, has served on the Professional Advisory Board for Autism Connection of PA, and holds a licensed master’s degree. In 2016, Shawn received the Carlow University Laureate Award, and in 2018 was the recipient of the Temple Grandin Award.

More recently, has joined forces with friend and mentor Sharon Potter to create a podcast, “Two Old Sexperts.” In response to the podcast, a book entitled “Neurodiversity, Sexuality, and Gender Identity” was written. The goal, however, remains the same…to share pivotal information related to sexuality, support people with disabilities, and build capacity within our system.

 


 

Amanda Meredith, LCSW
The Center for OCD and Anxiety
Breakout Session: “Normal Nerves,” Anxiety, or OCD?

Amanda is a licensed clinical social worker who has spent the last 10 years specifically treating OCD and anxiety. She learned to treat OCD through her work at the UPMC Western Pediatric OCD Program and via specialised training through the International OCD Foundation’s Behavior Therapy Training Institute. She continues to provide outpatient services in private practice.

 


 

Christine Michaels
CEO of NAMI Keystone PA
Breakout Session: Navigating Technology in Mental Health Treatment

Christine Michaels, MSHSA, is Chief Executive Officer of NAMI Keystone PA, the state organization in Pennsylvania for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), the nation’s largest grassroots mental health advocacy organization. Ms. Michaels has more than 35 years of experience in community mental health service delivery, social service agency administration, public policy, and legislative advocacy. She is an accomplished instructor with experience in curriculum development and is nationally certified by NAMI as a state trainer for NAMI Family-to-Family, NAMI Support Group Facilitators, and NAMI Smarts for Advocacy. Ms. Michaels is co-chair of the OMHSAS Planning Council Joint Committee, and she also serves on the Adult Committee for the OMHSAS Planning Council. She is chair of the Allegheny County MH/ID Advisory Board, serves on the 988 Advocacy Coalition Committee, and acts as the liaison from that committee to the State 988 Advisory Board. Ms. Michaels holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology and a Master of Science in Health Services Administration.

 


 

Ashley Montrenes, LCSW
The Center for OCD and Anxiety
Breakout Session: “Normal Nerves,” Anxiety, or OCD?

Ashley is a licensed clinical social worker who discovered her passion for treating OCD and anxiety while interning at the OCD Program at UPMC Western. She refined and built her skill set working as an ER social worker, school-based therapist and within the Pediatric OCD Program at UPMC Western. She currently is the Supervisor at COA’s South Hills location and maintains an active outpatient caseload as well.

 


 

Alyssa Myers
Playwright and Self-Advocate
Virtual Kickoff Session: Disability and Mental Health Reflections in Media

Alyssa Myers is a 26-year-old award-winning playwright and disability activist living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, with her husband Chris. Throughout her lifetime, she has written several plays and stories about people with disabilities and mental health issues, three of which were performed at California University of Pennsylvania between 2017 and 2019. One of those shows, Bobby’s Ballet Lessons, later went on to win Best College Show at the Pittsburgh Fringe Festival in April of 2018. As an autistic writer, her goal is to create stories that represent real disabled people and the challenges they face in life.

 


 

Leigh Owens
Director of Education and Advocacy, The PA Prison Society
Legislative Panel: Disability and Mental Health Needs of Incarcerated People

Leigh Owens is a passionate human rights advocate, dedicated to civic engagement and criminal justice reform, with an extensive background in political advocacy and community engagement. Adept at building and maintaining coalitions to advance civil rights and social justice causes, Leigh currently serves as the Director of Education and Advocacy at The PA Prison Society. A lifelong Pennsylvanian, Leigh is experienced in leading initiatives focused on equal rights, diversity, inclusion, and democracy and has a proven track record of collaborating with elected officials, community leaders, and impacted individuals to address conditions within the Pennsylvania correctional system. In addition to his role with the PA Prison Society, Leigh also serves as the Vice Chair of the Legislative Black Caucus Foundation Board and is the Chair of the Philadelphia NAACP’s Prison Support committee.

 


 

Luciana Randall
Executive Director, Autism Connection of PA
Legislative Panel: Disability and Mental Health Needs of Incarcerated People

Lu Randall has a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling from Wright State University, and a Bachelor of Science in Art Education, concentrations in Art Therapy and Creative Studies from SUNY College at Buffalo.  Early in her career she worked with people who had moderate to severe physical disabilities and traumatic brain injuries directing an adult day center. She landed solidly in the autism world in 1994 as a mobile therapist in the Pennsylvania Wraparound system. Working in family homes and community settings informed her practice and helped develop her practical knowledge base related to autism spectrum disorders and family living.  With colleagues she co-founded the Spectrum Charter School in Monroeville, PA, educating high school students in community-based, real work, nontraditional instruction addressing PA state standards and their IEP goals.  Ms. Randall was a key player in the design of the Pittsburgh International Airport Sensory Room, a one million dollar, award winning project designed to facilitate air travel for people with neurological disabilities of all ages and ability levels.  She has led the Autism Connection of PA since 2010, and speaks extensively on all areas of autism life, including education, employment, healthcare, victims’ services, jail and prison advocacy, and law enforcement officer continuing education. She is a member of the Office of Developmental Programs Information Sharing and Advisory Committee, the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency Victim Services Advisory Council, the Allegheny County Autism in the Courts Workgroup, the PA Provider Oversight subcommittee, and the Advisory Board of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

 


 

Joel Richard
Director of NAMI Signature Programs at NAMI Keystone Pennsylvania
Breakout Session: Navigating Technology in Mental Health Treatment

Joel Richard is Director of NAMI Signature Programs at NAMI Keystone Pennsylvania. Joel is also a NAMI In Our Own Voice presenter and NAMI Peer-to-Peer Facilitator and National Trainer. As a person living with Major Depressive Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Joel shares his story of struggle, suicide survival, and recovery. Prior to this position, Joel served as Data and Communications Specialist at NAMI Keystone Pennsylvania.

 


 

Senator Devlin Robinson
Pennsylvania Senate District 37
Breakout Session: Veterans’ Mental Health

Senator Devlin Robinson was elected in November 2020 to serve residents of the 37th Pennsylvania State Senatorial District, which includes parts of Allegheny County.

Robinson was raised in Brookline, a neighborhood in the south end of Pittsburgh, and attended Central Catholic High School. After graduation, he joined the United States Marine Corps – continuing a family tradition of military service dating back four generations.

Following the 9/11 attacks, Robinson requested assignment to the infantry, ensuring him a spot on the front lines. He served one combat tour in Afghanistan and two in Iraq, where as an infantryman in Nasiriyah (ambush alley) his unit fought door-to-door conducting searches in the days leading up to the subsequent rescue of Army POW Jessica Lynch. He also later served in Fallujah.

Upon his honorable discharge, Robinson returned home to Pittsburgh and founded his own company, Veterans Medical Technology and earned a business degree from Robert Morris University and an MBA from the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz School of Business.

Robinson has prime-sponsored an assortment of legislation with the following priorities: lowering and reforming tax codes; assisting and honoring veterans, first responders and law enforcement; supporting small businesses; enhancing manufacturing and labor opportunities; and many more. He has had six bills signed into law so far, which is well above average as a freshman senator. He also played a vital role in the opposition of PennDOT’s bridge tolling plan, vocalizing his disapproval and sponsoring legislation against it. Through his persistence and amplifying the voices of his constituents, PennDOT has permanently halted the bridge tolling initiative.

Robinson serves as the chair of the Labor and Industry Committee, vice chair of the Law and Justice Committee and is a member of the Appropriations, Banking and Insurance, Community, Economic and Recreational Development, Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure, and Local Government committees.

Robinson’s commitment to his fellow veterans never wavers as he serves on numerous veterans’ service organizations, as well as many other charitable organizations in and around southwestern Pennsylvania.

He is passionate about representing and serving his constituents, with two district offices available to assist with a variety of state-related issues.

 


 

Jeff Ruder Esq.
Founder, Ruder Law
Breakout Session: Your Child’s First IEP
Breakout Session: Don’t Count Me Out! Reducing Early Childhood Suspension and Expulsion

Jeff Ruder is the founder and principal of Ruder Law. Since 2006, Jeff has focused his practice on advocating for the rights of disabled children in public schools. Jeff is also a frequent speaker to professional and parent groups regarding the rights of students with disabilities. Jeff also serves as an Allegheny County Solicitor, handling matters involving child abuse and neglect. In addition, Jeff works as special counsel for the Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations where he represents victims of housing discrimination. Jeff also serves as special prosecutor for the Pittsburgh Citizen Police Review Board. Previously, Jeff worked as a guardian ad litem for Legal Aid for Children. Jeff is a 1993 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and a 1996 graduate of the Dickinson School of Law.

 


 

Michelle Schein, Ph.D.
Program Director, University of Pittsburgh Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program
Legislative Panel: Mental Health Staffing 101: Building for the Needs of Tomorrow

Michelle Schein, associate professor, is program director and clinical placement coordinator for the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program at the University of Pittsburgh. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a Ph.D. in rehabilitation sciences and an MS in rehabilitation counseling. Dr. Schein has been providing rehabilitation and counseling services since 2008.  Dr. Schein also serves as the Vice Chair for Education for the Department of Counseling and Behavioral Health.

 


 

Representative Mike Schlossberg
Pennsylvania House Democratic Caucus Chair
Virtual Kickoff Session: Disability and Mental Health Reflections in Media

Representative Schlossberg is committed to a strong and vibrant Pennsylvania serving the best interests of people, not special interests. He knows what we all know: Pennsylvania works best when workers are paid a fair wage, have good health care, live in a safe and affordable home, and can save some money for education and a secure retirement. Representative Schlossberg is a champion for world-class education, regardless of zip code, for all our children through early childhood learning, neighborhood schools and career, technical and higher education. For the 2023-2024 Legislative Session, he was elected Majority Caucus Chair by his colleagues and continues to serve as a co-chair for the House Mental Health Caucus. In prior sessions, Representative Schlossberg was the Democratic Caucus Administrator and Chair of the Northeast Regional Delegation.

Since taking office, Representative Schlossberg has proven to be an effective legislator, serving the needs of Parkland and Allentown and fighting for the values important to Pennsylvanians. In prior sessions, Representative Schlossberg’s proposals to increase mental health services for first responders and Rape Survivor Child Custody and Support legislation were also approved by the General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Tom Wolf. He was also instrumental in the transportation funding legislation approved during the 2013-2014 Legislative Session and signed by Governor Tom Corbett, helping to secure significant investments for the Lehigh Valley’s roads, bridges and mass transit.

In 2014, with the death by suicide of Robin Williams in the news, Representative Schlossberg shared his own struggles with depression and anxiety in an op-ed in the Morning Call. His story set forth a very public conversation about mental health and stigma which has become a central focus for Representative Schlossberg. As a result, he co-founded the House Mental Health Caucus in 2015, served as a keynote speaker at various conferences, advanced legislation in the General Assembly, and has traveled to Washington, D.C. to help Congresswoman Susan Wild’s efforts to enact federal legislation to improve mental health care access across the country. Representative Schlossberg was also appointed to the Mental Health & Justice Advisory Committee for the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency and was named co-chair of the Suicide Prevention Task Force by Governor Wolf. Recently, Schlossberg accepted an invitation to join the National Task Force on Workforce Mental Health Policy at the National Conference of State Legislatures.

To address Pennsylvania’s mental health care crisis, Representative Schlossberg laid out his agenda, “HOPE for PA,” in 2022. This plan would invest $100 million in public safety by creating safe and healthy communities, improve care by addressing provider and capacity shortages and help more people through training, education, and outreach. Shortly after, Governor Wolf signed the 2022-2023 budget approving an additional $100 million in federal funding to improve mental health care in Pennsylvania. Representative Schlossberg was then appointed to the Behavioral Health Commission on Adult Mental Health, which was tasked with creating a strategy to allocate those funds.

 


 

Mark Schmeler, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Vice Chair for Clinical Services and Policy, Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology, University of Pittsburgh
Legislative Panel: Access to Quality Assurance Checks for Complex Wheelchair Users

Mark Schmeler is an Associate Professor and the Vice Chair for Clinical Services & Policy in the Department of Rehabilitation Science & Technology at the University of Pittsburgh. He is also the co-director of the International Seating Symposium. He is an Occupational Therapist and Assistive Technology Professional (ATP) serving as the Director of the Center for Assistive Technology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.  His research is in the area large data analytics to inform practice and policy for wheelchair mobility and related assistive technologies. Other research interests include the application of outcome measures, telehealth, service delivery, product development, and product testing. He also works closely with local, national, and international organizations as an advocate for appropriate access to assistive technology devices and services. He is a Fellow of the Rehabilitation Engineering & Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA). He served on the RESNA Board of Directors and currently serves on the Professional Standards Board and Government Affairs Committee.

 


 

Alicia Sebastian
Collaborations and Support Strategist, Trying Together
Breakout Session: Don’t Count Me Out! Reducing Early Childhood Suspension and Expulsion

Alicia Sebastian is the Collaborations and Support Strategist at Trying Together. She supports early childhood professionals and families in Allegheny County by offering support through staff training, team meetings, data collection, and creating collaborative relationships. Through her work, Trying Together is able to provide high quality support to children, families, and professionals to reduce the number of expulsions and suspensions in Allegheny County. Alicia is a graduate from Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a B.S. in Disability Services and Special Education. She also has completed her Master of Education degree through the University of Pittsburgh studying Early Intervention with a Specialization in Autism. She specializes in positive behavior management, early childhood development, and providing equal opportunities for all early learners and their families. Alicia enjoys traveling with her husband, reading, attending concerts and shows, and yoga.

 


 

Jennifer Smith
Deputy Secretary, Pennsylvania’s Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services
Legislative Panel: Mental Health Staffing 101: Building for the Needs of Tomorrow

Jennifer (Jen) Smith currently serves as the Deputy Secretary for Pennsylvania’s Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.  She assumed this role in January 2023 after serving for 7 years as Secretary for Pennsylvania’s Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs.

Throughout the course of her career in behavioral health, Jen has prioritized improving access to services, enhancing the quality of services, and fostering collaboration across the system.  Aside from her professional knowledge and experience in behavioral health, Jen is a wife and mother of 8 – including one child with an intellectual disability and another with behavioral health diagnoses.

 


 

Monica Albert Still, RN, BSN
Nurse, Adult Spina Bifida Clinic team at UPMC Mercy
Breakout Session: Individual Advocacy and Systemic Change in Healthcare

Monica Albert Still, RN, BSN, was born with Spina Bifida. She obtained her BSN, graduating Magna Cum Laude, from Southern Connecticut University. She has spent a 30-year career in nursing keeping her patients out of institutions. She went from bedside nursing to management as her body aged and became more difficult to manage. As a professional, she has written appeals for her patients. As a disabled person, she has spent time writing appeals for herself and advocating for her own care as well as for her family. She technically retired from nursing and her job as a home healthcare administrator a few years back. She then embraced the advocacy part of nursing and became a disability justice advocate for the Spina Bifida community and the broader disability community. She serves on many different boards and committees.

She is honored to serve as the Secretary for the Board of Disability Rights PA and the chair of its Mental Health Advisory Committee. She came partially out of retirement when her dream nursing job became available. She now serves her community as the nurse for the Adult Spina Bifida Clinic team at UPMC Mercy. She is grateful for her children, her granddaughter, her parents, and her grandparents. She would especially like to thank her mother for being an advocate for her during a time when most disabled children were institutionalized and forgotten. Her mother taught her how to be an advocate.

 


 

Kelley N. Swift, Esq.
Executive Director, CASA for Kids of Washington County
Legislative Panel:  Mental Health and Foster Care: Unmet Needs and Untapped Opportunity

Kelley Swift joined the CASA for Kids, Washington staff as Executive Director in October 2023. Kelley served on the Board of Directors, as Board President since 2008. Prior to her role as Board President, Kelley worked at Allegheny County CASA for six years, as an Intake Coordinator, Law Clerk supervisor, Volunteer supervisor and law clerk. She has her JD from Duquesne Law and BA in Sociology and Criminal Justice from Messiah University.

 


 

John Tague
JT Consulting Services
Breakout Session: Transportation: Issues, Advocacy and Resources

John Tague is a chair of the PA Transportation Alliance, sole proprietor of JT Consulting Services and resident of the City of Pittsburgh. His consulting practice specializes in disability policy and training. The mission of JT Consulting Services is to include individuals with disabilities in all activities of community life, including education and employment. His vision is to make it possible to for individuals with disabilities to be considered more for their abilities and what they can contribute to their place of work, their place of worship and to their community. John is a graduate of Edinboro University (B.A.).

John has served on many boards and is active with the PA Labor & Industry Office of Vocational Rehabilitation, PA Statewide Independent Living Council, Pittsburgh Regional Transit (RPT), City– County Task Force (Pittsburgh-Allegheny) and is a person with a disability who exemplifies community living in empowering others toward systems advocacy.

 


 

Jessica Tomko
Self-advocate
Assistant Director of Admissions, Diversity Committee Chair, Carnegie Mellon University Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Virtual Kickoff Session: Disability and Mental Health Reflections in Media

Jessica Tomko works as the Assistant Director of Admissions and chairs the Diversity Committee for the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. She has a Bachelor in Music Therapy and a Master in Psychology and has been working in higher education for over ten years. She serves on the Board of Directors for the Andy Warhol Museum. She is actively involved in community efforts to promote diversity and inclusion, focusing her efforts around accessibility and disability advocacy.

 


 

Tessa Watkins
Self-Advocate
Breakout Session: Diagnosed as an Autistic Adult

Tessa was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at the age of 29. Despite receiving the diagnosis later in life, they were still autistic since birth. Their specific presentation of autism went undiagnosed for nearly 30 years. Tessa and other autistic people like them are often still doubted, denied supports, and discriminated against due to the lack of autism awareness in mainstream society because they don’t fit the stereotypes depicted in media. Tessa has a Bachelor of Science, works as a programmer in the digital marketing industry both for a local advertising agency as well as a freelancer for startups and new/small businesses because solving problems with technology is one of their special interests. Tessa is also married and together they are the proud parents of a spirited toddler that’s also on the spectrum.

 


 

Morgan Williams, Esq.
Deputy Chief Counsel, PA Human Relations Commission
Breakout Session: Protections for Individuals with Disabilities under the Law

As Deputy Chief Counsel, Morgan Williams supervises a team of attorneys and works with the Chief Counsel to manage the Commission's legal department. She strives to streamline the litigation process and improve outcomes for victims of discrimination. Prior to serving in her role as Deputy Chief Counsel, Williams was a senior prosecutor with the Commission and has handled complex litigation and appeals. Williams came to the Commission in 2014 after spending some time in private practice and after working with our partners at the Philadelphia Human Relations Commission. She is a graduate of Widener University School of Law in Delaware. Deputy Chief Counsel Williams serves the people of the Commonwealth out of our Pittsburgh Regional Office.

 


 

Val Williams
Kindergarten Transition Program Director, Trying Together
Breakout Session: Don’t Count Me Out! Reducing Early Childhood Suspension and Expulsion

Val Williams holds a Masters of Educational Policy and Leadership from American University and a Bachelors of Fine Arts from the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati. Currently the Kindergarten Transition Program Director with Trying Together, Val’s previous work includes direct instructional work as an educator and non-profit program leadership in the areas of Early Childhood Education, Arts Education, K-4 English Language Arts Instruction, and supporting professional pathways for high school students in Title I Schools.

Outside of work Val is a proud mother to her 2-year-old daughter, Ruthie, who is currently enrolled in full-time childcare where she engages in her daily work of learning through joyful play each day.

 


 

Alec B. Wright, Esq.
O’Brien Coleman & Wright
Legislative Panel: Disability and Mental Health Needs of Incarcerated People

Alec B. Wright advises clients at the trial and appellate levels on civil and employee rights. Alec’s representation includes matters such as police misconduct and systemic constitutional violations. Alec’s representation also includes matters in employment discrimination on behalf of employees who are discriminated against because of race, national origin, sex, gender, gender identity, disability, criminal background, FMLA and otherwise. Alec further represents clients on prisoner’s civil rights issues, such as prisoner abuse, mental health and inadequate medical care.

Alec is a member of the prestigious Academy of Trial Lawyers of Allegheny County. He is also the former Chair of the Civil Rights Litigation Committee for the Allegheny County Bar Association.

Alec serves as pro bono counsel in prisoner’s civil rights litigation in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. He also serves as pro bono counsel to the Trade Institute of Pittsburgh, a Homewood-based non-profit whose mission pertains to prisoner reentry and reintegration through education culminating in trade certifications and employment.

Alec believes that everyone is afforded a fundamental basis of equal opportunity. He is dedicated to the fight for equal opportunity, regardless of race, national origin, sex, gender, gender identity, disability, criminal background, or any other identifier that people may use to cause something other than equal opportunity for everyone.

11th Annual Disability & Mental Health Summit

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