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Fall 2015

Melissa Cheplic Honored with NADD Member of the Year Award

Melissa Cheplic with Rob FletcherMelissa Cheplic, MPH, NADD-DDS, was honored with the NADD Member of the Year Award in San Francisco, California on November 20, 2015. The award recognizes a NADD member who has supported the NADD mission through various activities and has made notable contributions to NADD, an association committed to individuals with developmental disabilities and mental health needs. Cheplic is chairperson of the NADD Competency-Based DSP Certification Program. She has overseen the development of NADD’s DSP Certification Program and is currently shepherding the development of web-based training. She also co-authored a book with Rob Fletcher, Dan Baker, and Juanita St. Croix, entitled Mental Health Approaches to Intellectual/Developmental Disability: A Resource for Trainers, together with an associated Trainee Workbook. Cheplic is a Training and Consultation Specialist for the Community Positive Behavior Supports project at The Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities. She earned her Bachelor of Science Degree from Montclair State University and her Masters Degree in Public Health from Rutgers School of Public Health.

Deborah Spitalnik, PhD Presents at the White House Celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

Deborah SpitalnikDeborah M. Spitalnik, PhD, Professor of Pediatrics and Executive Director of The Boggs Center, delivered remarks at the White House in celebration of the 40th Anniversary of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) on November 17, 2015. The event brought together government officials, the education community, advocates and others to celebrate and reaffirm support for IDEA. Originally signed into law as the Education for All Handicapped Children Act in 1975, IDEA ensures the same educational opportunities are provided to children with and without disabilities. In her talk, entitled, “Bending the Arc Toward Justice: IDEA and the Common Good,” Spitalnik highlighted the impact of the Act and the lives that have been changed by the right to education, while also touching upon the work that still needs to be done in supporting students with disabilities in transitioning “to a life of opportunity, meaning, and contribution.” Spitalnik’s presentation can be viewed on the White House YouTube Channel.

The Boggs Center welcomes Ginny Bryant as New Consumer Advisory Council Chair

Deborah Spitalnik and Ginny BryantThe Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities welcomes Ginny Bryant as its new Consumer Advisory Council Chair. Comprised of people with disabilities, family members, and professionals in the field, the Consumer Advisory Council (CAC) provides ongoing consultation and review of the Center’s activities. Bryant was introduced to members as Chair at last month’s Consumer Advisory Council meeting on October 26th, where she also facilitated a discussion about “The Role of the CAC in Building Capacity for the Future.”

Bryant came to The Boggs Center through its Seminar on Family Centered Care and Developmental Disabilities, a required component of the pediatric rotation for third year medical students at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Along with her husband and 10 year-old daughter Rachel, Bryant has hosted participating medical students in their home for the past 8 years to increase awareness of and sensitivity to the strengths and needs of families who have a child with a developmental disability.

Ginny Bryant and daughter RachelAs an attorney, Bryant has practiced law since 1996 and has focused her practice in the areas of wealth transfer and wealth preservation. She is a frequent lecturer to parents and professionals on estate planning matters, including Special Needs Trusts and guardianship. Bryant is a current member and past President of the Down Syndrome Association of Central New Jersey, as well as past President of the Family Support Organization of Mercer County. In addition, she is a current member of the Homefront NJ Women’s Initiative, and previously served on the Board of Trustees of Kidsbridge and as a member of PLAN NJ’s Development Committee.


The Boggs Center Presents at NJ Conference on Disability and Employment


Dan Baker and Jessica ShortDan Baker, PhD, and Jessica Short of The Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities presented on a panel, “Addressing Behavioral and Communication Challenges on the Job, at the New Jersey Conference on Disability and Employment held at Raritan Valley Community College on October 5, 2015. Sponsored by Toys "R" Us, the event featured a diverse group of more than 20 speakers and panelists representing organizations such as Prudential Financial, Sodexo, Eden Autism Services, National Organization on Disability, and the Kessler Foundation. Throughout the day, dialogue focused mostly on how to find and sustain jobs in the workplace for individuals with disabilities, how to assess the different resources necessary for differently aged or disabled populations, as well as how to bridge the communication and access gaps between relevant parties.


Bill Davis Inducted Into Rutgers African-American Alumni Alliance Hall of Fame

Bill DavisBill Davis, MEd, Training and Consultation Specialist for the NJ Positive Behavior Supports in Schools project at The Boggs Center, was inducted into the Rutgers African-American Alumni Alliance (RAAA) Hall of Fame. Bill was among the five individuals who were inducted into the RAAA Hall of Fame for their outstanding achievements in their communities and/or their respective professional fields. The 12th Annual Hall of Fame Awards Ceremony was held on October 3, 2015 in Piscataway, NJ.


New Jersey’s Direct Support Professionals Honored at Recognition Ceremony

Career Path DSPsOn September 15, 2015, The New Jersey Partnership for Direct Support Professional Workforce Development held a Recognition Ceremony to honor Direct Support Professionals across the state. This event, marked by a series of speeches and educational sessions presented by state leaders, advocates, experts in the field of developmental disabilities, and partners dedicated to the professionalism of the direct service workforce left a lasting impression on those in attendance.

Workforce development and recognition are nationally accepted methods aimed at enhancing the quality of supports provided to people with disabilities. This event highlighted the progress New Jersey has made in this area over the past decade, shared stories of dedicated Direct Support Professionals (DSPs) and advocates across NJ, and commended DSPs statewide for their dedication to those they support.

Deborah Spitalnik and Elizabeth ConnollyDeborah M. Spitalnik, PhD, Executive Director of The Boggs Center and Chair of The Partnership’s Leadership Council opened the event with welcoming remarks. In her presentation, Dr. Spitalnik warmly commended DSPs for their steadfast commitment and dedication. She also recognized the history New Jersey has with being on the forefront of workforce development, highlighted the progress that made across the state, and identified the work that needs to continue to ensure a quality workforce now and into the future.


NJ Department of Human Services Acting Commissioner Elizabeth Connolly presented a proclamation from Governor Chris Christie, designating September 13-19, 2015 as Direct Support Professional Recognition Week in New Jersey.

New Jersey has long emphasized the importance that training and workforce development for DSPs plays in the lives of people with disabilities. This has most recently been demonstrated by entering the third year of statewide implementation of the College of Direct Support (CDS), an online educational program that provides more than 30 courses focused on the field of direct support. The availability of this system helps the NJ Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD) meet basic assurances related to training as required by the federal Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) waivers, referred to as the Community Care Waiver (CCW) and the DDD Supports Program under the Medicaid Comprehensive Waiver in NJ. It also provides DSPs with access to a statewide, voluntary Career Path program that utilizes CDS coursework in combination with on-the-job mentoring and competency-based portfolio development aimed at enhancing professional skills and providing certificate and credentialing opportunities.

The NJ Partnership for DSP Workforce Development is a collaboration between the NJ Department of Human Services, Division of Developmental Disabilities; Alliance for the Betterment of Citizens with Disabilities; The Arc of NJ; the NJ Community College Consortium for Workforce and Economic Development; The Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities, Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School; NJ Association of Community Providers; NJ Council on Developmental Disabilities; Direct Support Professionals; and People with Disabilities and Families.

The Boggs Center Welcomes 2015-2016 Student Trainees

2015-2016 Interdisciplinary TraineesFive students are participating in The Boggs Center's 2015-2016 Interdisciplinary Traineeship Program coordinated by Caroline Coffield, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Interdisciplinary Training Coordinator of The Boggs Center.

Sarah Stern, an advanced standing MSW student at Rutgers University School of Social Work, will complete her field education placement at The Boggs Center and will be supervised by Michael Knox, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Deputy Director. Tena Fernandez, a second-year MSW student at Rutgers University School of Social Work, will complete her field education placement at The Boggs Center and will be supervised by Robyn Carroll, MSW, Communications Manager. Rachel Newman, an undergraduate Psychology student at Princeton University, will be supervised by Deborah M. Spitalnik, PhD, Professor of Pediatrics and Executive Director of The Boggs Center. Lisa Ankrah, an undergraduate Public Health student at Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, will be supervised by Caroline Coffield, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Interdisciplinary Training Coordinator. Tara Dhawan, an undergraduate Cell Biology and Neuroscience student at Rutgers University, will be supervised by Phil Smith, PhD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics.


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