Risk Management Team Creates a Safer Workplace

Every last Wednesday of the month, ILA’s Risk Management Committee gathers at Mulrooney Manor to review new safety information and investigate incidents. Led by Director of Quality Assurance Richard Gruber and Manager of Administrative Services Tanya Dinkins, the committee comprises 12 ILA staff, including Nursing Coordinator Mitzie Cope, Incident Management Coordinator Theresa Kolsin, Compliance Specialist Velma Leacock, Consumer Resource Specialist Andy Lewis, Area Coordinator Donna Lundy, Coordinator of Maintenance Mechanics Billy Reyes, Resource Specialist Ben Soto, Benefits Specialist Laverne Tuzo, Human Resources Manager Amanda Villacis, and Director of Nursing Melody Virtusio.

ILA Executive Director Arthur Palevsky formed the group about ten years ago. Tanya explains, “Arthur started the committee after a devastating fire killed four Individuals at a group home in upstate New York.” Arthur’s goals: to ensure staff and Individuals are safe and to prevent such accidents.

The Risk Management Process

“We review accidents, how they could have been avoided, and recommend operational changes,” Mitzi explains. “We interview the persons involved to get their perspectives and collaborate to resolve the matter.”

Ben adds, “In ensuring that we conduct each investigation professionally to its fullest, we always treat staff respectfully when interviewing them. We make sure they have a strong understanding of the actions that brought them to Risk Management and the correct course to rectify any mistakes.”

Many Risk Management Committee members also serve on a committee that reviews safety practices and investigates safety incidents at our residences. That committee is named Code Rule 60 (CR 60), after a codification of practices contained in New York State Worker’s Compensation Insurance. Its purpose is to achieve greater safety in the workplace. ILA’s CR 60 Committee was formed by Frank De Lucia, ILA’s Deputy Executive Director & Chief Financial Officer, who explains, “During CR 60 investigations, we determine the root causes of incidents and recommend appropriate corrective measures. Findings from all ILA safety reviews go to ILA’s administration, residence supervisors, and nursing staff.”

The scope of CR 60 Committee activities is vast. The Nursing Department creates a safety data log created listing all chemicals used in ILA’s facilities and related precautions. The committee also designed a form for maintenance staff to share with residence supervisors about the time and duration of a house cleaning for staff and Individuals to vacate the premises. Additionally, they developed first aid procedures for all chemical breaches along with emergency contact numbers if someone is affected by a chemical. “Every residence maintains a copy of this manual and staff are trained extensively on how to use it properly,” Tanya says.

Risk Management Prevents Accidents

Scott Glaser, a consultant for Philadelphia Insurance Senior Risk Management, attends every Risk Management meeting to share pertinent claims data. “We partner with our insured companies to share our analysis with the group,” Scott says. “ILA can then control their costs, and Philadelphia Insurance will pay fewer claims.”

ILA has seen a sharp decline in safety incidents in recent years. Mitzi says, “Since staff are required to meet with us to explain incidents, they know what’s at stake, which motivates them to ensure the safest possible environment.”

Richard attributes the decline in automobile incidents to installing driver tracking devices in all Agency vehicles, the latest being GPS. “Monitoring driving is a preventive step that has made drivers more aware of their speed and habits,” he says.

Richard points out the unique safety challenges in operating vehicles in New York. “Parking is at a premium, streets are narrow, and there’s double-parking. Vehicles can get hit. We understand sometimes nothing can be done, but in most cases, our recommendations do prevent accidents,” he says. ILA’s newly leased vehicles are equipped with backup cameras and sensors for added safety.

As for ILA’s CR 60 Committee, Frank proudly reports that its implementation has resulted in a 5% decrease of the Worker’s Compensation premium, and he promises more efforts to attain greater reductions.

“Our committees prevent and correct mishaps,” Ben says. “They help keep us informed about staff’s efforts to maintain a safe environment and reinforce that we’re educating people appropriately to make sure they and our Individuals are safe.”

Arthur Palevsky Appointed to the Board of ACANY

And so it begins. Almost a decade in the making, the field of services for the developmentally disabled is changing from a system of direct payments by New York State to provider agencies into a system in which care is operationally and financially managed by a health insurance-type organization. July 1, 2018 saw the first step in this change. Medicaid Service Coordination performed by provider agencies ceased to exist and was replaced by an improved arrangement known as Care Coordination performed under the auspice of an entity independent of any provider. The purpose of Care Coordination is to improve service delivery for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities by developing a life plan that enables families and individuals to have greater choice when selecting a care environment.

The independent entities, of which there are several throughout New York State, are known as Care Coordination Organizations/Health Homes (CCOs/HHs), and are not-for-profits. ILA Executive Director Arthur Palevsky was appointed to the Board of Directors of one of the CCO/HHs, the Advance Care Alliance of New York (ACANY).

ACANY, an association of three provider organizations, was launched to assume an active role in the transition to care coordination and has succeeded to do so. ACANY has enrolled 24,000 Individuals within the lower portion of New York State. ILA Medicaid Service Coordinators are now functioning as Care Managers and will be employed by ACANY before July 1, 2019.

Mr. Palevsky’s work with the ACANY’s Board of Directors will enable ILA to be involved in the State’s full transition to Managed Care, while keeping the Agency in the loop about future developments and ensuring the new system continues to benefit the hundreds of Individuals ILA serves. 

Individual Blooms at Brooklyn Day Hab

For approximately five years, Sully E., a participant in ILA’s Day Hab Without Walls Program in Brooklyn, has developed his employment skills at David Shannon Florist and Nursery in Kensington. He shows up to work each week, assisting with a variety of tasks such as watering plants, transporting floral arrangements, sweeping the floor and making seasonal bouquets for customers.

At the store, Sully has gained independent living skills and increased socialization. He enjoys interacting with staff and the strong camaraderie that exists at the shop. “Owner Joseph Perrotta and his staff have been very welcoming to Sully,” explains Nicole Sawyers, Supervisor, ILA Day Hab Services. “He goes to work like everyone else and he feels like part of the team.”

Sully  has also enhanced his travel training skills. While accompanied by ILA staff, he walks to work from the ILA residence where he lives, successfully navigating streets and saying hello to neighbors on the way.

At work, he takes pride in the festive bouquets he helps to make. His enthusiasm and “can do” attitude is appreciated by his colleagues, especially during holidays. On Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day – the two busiest days in the floral industry – Sully received beautiful flowers in recognition of his hard work and dedication. He proudly showed off the bouquets to ILA staff and Individuals.

Sully’s continued growth and the success of the Brooklyn Day Hab program would not be possible without Joseph and his wonderful staff and without the kindness and generosity of ILA’s donors. Proceeds from last year’s 11th Annual Golf and Games Tournament will help to further enhance the program. “Support for our Day Hab program is vital, so Individuals like Sully can continue to acquire the necessary skills to thrive in the community,” Nicole says.

To learn more about ILA’s Day Habilitation Programs, visit www.ilaonline.org/services/day-habilitation. For information on how to support ILA programs at this year’s golf outing, visit the event registration page at www.ilaonline.org/ila-events/coming-soon-12th-golf-games-tournament.



Meet Fergie and Coulton

Since February 28, 2018, ILA’s 226th Street residence has been receiving visits from Fergie and Coulton, adorable therapy dogs.

The engagement of the therapeutic service was the brainchild of Lily Smollens, an Individual residing at 226th Street. Residence staff say the new service has been a huge success.

“One of our Individuals said that the therapy dogs help her to relax and to de-stress,” explains 226th Street Residential Supervisor Janet Woolward. “During one of the visits, she was initially in a bad mood, but after petting the dogs, she felt much better.”

Fergie and Coulton currently visit the residence every other week. Janet says they provide “much-needed therapeutic support” and hopes to see the service expand at the Agency. We’re told Fergie and Coulton couldn’t agree more. Many thanks to the dogs’ owner, licensed psychologist Alan Klatt, Ph.D., for helping us to provide this valuable service to our Individuals.

Three New Places to Call Home

ILA recently relocated Individuals from our West 48th Street residence to three new homes in Brooklyn: Tilden Avenue, East 102nd Street and East 91st Street.

“Six of the ten Individuals had been living at West 48th Street since the Manhattan residence opened in 1993, making the move particularly significant,” says ILA Area Coordinator Jonelle Best. “Thanks to our incredible staff and a few sleepless nights, we all worked together to make the moves as seamless as possible.”

The Individuals of West 48th Street and Supervisor Shakeia Thomas meticulously selected the perfect themes and colors for Individuals’ bedrooms, while Clinical Direct Care Counselor Nadia Nermorin successfully transferred Individuals’ medications and oversaw the transition to Brooklyn-based clinical appointments.

Individuals’ families were part of the move every step of the way, and also played a role in the selection of the new houses. “Families were given a tour of each of the homes and they loved what they saw,” Jonelle explains.

Two of the homes are ranch-style and contain state-of-the art kitchens, large living and dining areas and beautiful backyards. The East 91st Street residence has a large basement with a rec room for the house’s four Individuals to enjoy. Tilden Avenue is a duplex apartment in which two Individuals reside. Four people each call East 102nd and East 91st Streets home – a great accomplishment, particularly for the Individuals who have attained their goal of having their own bedroom.

So how has the transition been for the ten Individuals? “So far so good,” Jonelle says. “Incidents of challenging behaviors have been infrequent.”

To ease the acclimation process and the adjustment of Individuals living apart from their former West 48th Street housemates, ILA staff regularly organize common dinners and social outings so the new houses can integrate. “The deep family connection is still there,” Jonelle points out.

To familiarize Individuals with their new communities, ILA staff accompany them on recreational outings. “From local stores to parks and museums, the Individuals are getting to know Brooklyn well; some also attend day programs in Brooklyn,” Jonelle says. Jonathan, an Individual from Tilden Avenue, particularly enjoys riding the subway. “He takes beautiful pictures of train signs that he posts on Facebook,” Jonelle explains.

Jonathan’s housemate, Alanton, enjoys having his own room with a walk-in closet, riding his bike in the neighborhood, and the independent living he has been able to achieve at ILA. He’s currently working two jobs to provide for his two-year-old daughter. Alanton recently won visitation rights, enabling his daughter to visit him every other weekend. ILA has also linked Alanton to parenting classes, first aid workshops and other courses so he can receive the continued support he needs to be a successful parent.

Watching Alanton and other Individuals thrive in their new homes puts a smile on staff’s faces. “Our goal is to provide top-notch care for our guys. They are the reason why we are here,” Jonelle says. “We’re thrilled to see them happy in their surroundings.”

ILA Wins Orion Fleet Intelligence Excellence in Fleet Safety Award!

Congratulations to
Independent Living Association, Inc.
on being awarded the
Orion Fleet Intelligence
EXCELLENCE in Fleet Safety Award for 2017!

In recognition of ILA’s continued commitment to fleet safety, ILA has been presented with the 2017 Orion Fleet Intelligence Excellence in Fleet Safety Award.

Orion Fleet Intelligence, the leader in products and services to help companies manage the safety and efficiency of their fleet, released its annual Fleet Safety Awards, highlighting organizations that have a measurable and proven track record of providing a safe and secure transportation environment throughout the year.

These awards are presented to organizations that operate commercial auto fleets as part of their business. To be considered, an organization must be deployed with a qualified fleet safety program during the entire calendar year and demonstrate high levels of safety performance relative to industry benchmarks. Fleets are scored based on specific speeding and aggressive driving data weighted by severity and normalized on a per-mile-traveled basis.

Orion’s deployed customers have performed on average 50% better than the industry average this year, a testament to the quality of Orion’s service as well as the importance its customers place on safety.

ILA is proud to be recognized for our hard work and dedication in ensuring a safe and secure transportation environment for ILA’s Individuals and staff. Congratulations to everyone at ILA and many thanks to Orion for this great honor!


Fleet Safety Awards

ILA Opens Two New Houses

Earlier this year, ILA opened its first two residences in Queens, made possible, in part, by funds raised at last year’s golf outing.

226th Street Residence

The agency’s 226th Street residence, which opened in June 2017, is home to four Individuals who aged out of residential schools located out of state. Each Individual has a bedroom in the beautifully appointed house. Other notable features include a screened-in porch and two yards, front and back, enabling Individuals to enjoy warm weather days together. The residence also has a recreation area in the downstairs portion of the house, a separate kitchen and dining area, and a decorative fireplace.

The residence is centrally located. “The house is three blocks from Merrick Boulevard, allowing for easy access into the community,” explains Tiffany Bennett, Area Coordinator. Individuals walk to the library and stores, or they travel to appointments via public transportation, showcasing their increased independence and social inclusion. Some participate in ILA’s Community Habilitation Program, helping to enhance their self-sufficiency.

Inside the residence, Individuals continue to increase their communication, daily living, and socialization skills. They also take-charge in performing chores, helping to set the table at mealtime, and assisting with food preparation.

233rd Street Residence

In April 2017, ILA’s 233rd Street residence opened its doors, welcoming four Individuals who previously lived at residential schools in Upstate New York and Pennsylvania. It is also the agency’s first house solely for Individuals with autism. They maintain different levels of functionality.

The four-bedroom home is staffed by a supervisor and direct support professionals (DSPs), as well as nurses and a part-time behavior intervention specialist (BIS). Individuals enjoy spending time in the backyard and participating in community outings to local stores and restaurants.

According to Area Coordinator Donna Lundy, the Individuals have “adjusted well to their new surroundings,” and staff have enjoyed getting to know everyone in the house. She credits her team for their hard work and dedication while meeting any challenges that may occur. “I’m looking into additional training courses for management and DSPs so we can best meet the specific needs of these Individuals and enable them to achieve the highest level of independence,” Donna says.

Individuals are attending Community and Day Habilitation Programs, which provide greater structure to boost their comfort levels. “The community has been very welcoming to our Individuals, which has helped ease their transition to ILA,” Donna says. Another positive factor: the 226th Street and 233rd Street residences are fewer than two miles apart, allowing for regular social interaction between the two houses. Barbecues and other recreational outings have helped to foster camaraderie and socialization skills, with many more events on the horizon.

Celebrating a Great Cause on the Green

On October 12, 2017, ILA held its 11th Annual Golf and Games Tournament at Harbor Links in Port Washington, New York. More than 150 donors, vendors, staff, families and other supporters swung for a wonderful cause before raising a glass to the Agency during the lively cocktail hour and evening reception.

ILA Executive Director Arthur Palevsky expressed heartfelt support for the event’s donors and sponsors who help make ILA’s services possible. A moving video highlighted the ILA ACES Day Habilitation Program, which is subsidized by funds raised from last year’s golf outing. The Staten Island-based program serves ten developmentally disabled Individuals, providing educational, recreational and volunteer opportunities in the community. The video is viewable at www.ilaonline.org.

This year’s fundraiser also featured a live auction and a chance to win many prizes including sports and entertainment packages. Tee and Flag sponsor James E. Vassalotti III, R.A., President of architectural firm, James E. Vassalotti III & Associates, successfully bid on tickets to the popular Broadway musical, School of Rock, as well as New York Rangers tickets. James and his son recently attended both events and had a great time.

A Mahjong tournament, perennially organized by Karen Palevsky, was a hit with several of the golf outing attendees, while a lively raffle added to the day’s festivities. Leah Dickerson, parent of ILA Individual Keith Dickerson and a longtime member of the ILA family, happily auctioned off one of her famous hats. Other lucky raffle winners went home with one of ILA’s extraordinary gift baskets. The grand prize was a remote controlled electric pull cart, a golfer’s dream.

For ILA Board Member Lola Simpson, the event was the first Agency fundraiser she has attended. She and her family enjoyed a round of golf and later attended the evening reception. “As a fairly new board member and golf beginner, it was a wonderful experience to immerse myself in the event with guided lessons from Arthur,” Ms. Simpson said. “The golf outing truly showcased ILA’s commitment to transform lives and the collaboration of staff, donors and sponsors to make a difference.  I’m proud to volunteer for ILA and can’t wait till next year so I can help raise more awareness and improve my golf game.”

Emilio DiSiervi, Account Executive, Community Care Rx, also a first-time attendee, remarked, “It was inspiring to be around so many passionate people who champion an improved quality of life for Individuals in need.”

Longtime donor Alan Kifferstein of Economic Planning Group, again showed his generosity as the tournament sponsor. Alan has attended ILA’s golf outing for seven consecutive years. “The wonderful work of ILA keeps me coming back every year. It’s always a wonderful time,” he said.

Executive Director Arthur Palevsky said, “We’re very grateful to everyone who came out to support ILA at this year’s event. Many thanks to our wonderful golf committee for organizing another successful fundraiser, and to our generous donors for helping us meet our mission of high-quality care to the hundreds of Individuals we serve.”

DSC_3998 DSC_4000 IMG_7112 IMG_7136 IMG_7180 DSC_4039 IMG_7146

Thank you to our 2017 golf outing sponsors:

Tournament Sponsor & BENEFACTOR

Economic Planning Group, Inc.


P.E. Stone, Inc.
The Bentson Insurance Group


James E. Fitzgerald, Inc.
Cirocco & Ozzimo Inc.


Hunter Roberts Construction Group


Ace Endico
Bartel Construction Corp. & James E. Vassalotti III & Associates, LLP
Beacon Therapy Services, PLLC
Crossland Ventilation Inc.
John Gallin & Son, Inc.
Norris Mclaughlin Marcus, P.A. Attorneys at Law
On-Track Construction Associates, Inc.
Valley National Bank
Turner Construction Company


The Bentson Insurance Group
The Whitty Family


Hatzel & Buehler, Inc.


Tower Drugs Pharmacy


Tower Drugs Pharmacy


MBAF, Certified Public Accountants and Advisors


Tower Drugs Pharmacy


Tower Drugs Pharmacy




The Bentson Insurance Group

Cirocco & Ozzimo Inc.

Economic Planning Group, Inc.

Hatzel & Buehler, Inc.

Hunter Roberts Construction Group

James E. Fitzgerald, Inc.

P.E. Stone, Inc.


711 New York Painting & Decorating Co., Inc.

Ace Endico

Ann Falutico Architect PC

Bartel Construction Corp. & James E. Vassalotti III & Associates, LLP

Beacon Therapy Services, PLLC

Briscoe Protective System

Cirocco & Ozzimo Inc.

Community Resources Capital Foundation

Crossland Ventilation Inc.

Economic Planning Group, Inc.

GDO Contracting Corporation

Hatzel & Buehler, Inc.

James E. Fitzgerald, Inc.

John Gallin & Son, Inc.

Norris Mclaughlin Marcus, P.A. Attorneys at Law

On-Track Construction Associates, Inc.

P.E. Stone, Inc.

The Bentson Insurance Group

Trooper Foods Inc.

Valley National Bank


Board Member Brings Passion and Insight to ILA

“I’m inspired by people making big differences in their communities,” says Lola Simpson, one of ILA’s newest board members, elected in December 2016.

That was the biggest appeal about joining a nonprofit board, which is why she jumped at the opportunity to volunteer her services on ILA’s Board of Directors. Ms. Simpson brings valuable insight and expertise to the table, including two decades of experience working with city government and nonprofits (both on-staff and as a consultant) in the following areas: data management and reporting, program research and evaluation, technical assistance planning and implementation, business process analysis, technology management, contracting, and budgeting.

Her distinguished career in city government began when she was accepted into the LaGuardia Management Fellowship Program after leaving graduate school. As a fellow, Simpson worked as an analyst, rotating at several oversight and line agencies learning the challenges of policy and program implementation.

During her later career at the New York City Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), Simpson worked for several reform initiatives in the mid-90s and early 2000s focused on decreasing foster, increasing preventive services, and improving data collection and internal systems to monitor contracted provider agencies’ accountability and performance. Ms. Simpson was instrumental in initiating and managing a web-based application to automate preventive services data to effectively monitored contracted agencies’ prevention services to families and children across the city. She served as Director of Management Analysis, Research and Planning at the agency for nine years.

Currently, she works as Senior Director at OneCity Health, which is currently reforming the state’s Medicaid waiver program, and is responsible for operations, administration, contracting, and payment for the NYC Health + Hospitals, the largest Performing Provider System (PPS) in New York City. Prior to OneCity Health, Simpson held a similar role for a year at NYC Health + Hospitals, streamlining large contracts and fiscal procedures with several community-based social justice organizations and stakeholders including the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice and Office of Mental Health and Mental Hygiene. She assisted Central Office Finance in the External Appeal Pilot implementation to develop a centralized appeal process across the 11 hospitals, and helped recoup lost revenue from insurance denials for medically necessary procedures. Ms. Simpson was part of a HHC Options Steering Committee looking at strategies to improve and increase access to health care for uninsured populations. She also held an eight-year position at Metis Associates, a national research and consulting firm, where she advised federal, state and local governments, and foundations across the country on policy, program research, evaluation and implementation, and data collection and reporting improvements in areas of child welfare, social justice reform, and community development.

Ms. Simpson credits years of analyzing data and evaluating programs as an ideal fit for ILA. “Understanding the importance of data in the workplace, particularly in human services, is critical to understanding the populations you’re serving to successfully meet their needs,” she explains. “It’s a powerful way to justify why a program is needed. If donors see ILA is meeting its performance measures and outcomes, the more likely programs can continue to receive proper funding and support.”

Ms. Simpson is committed to helping ILA enhance outcomes for Individuals so they continue to meet their goals and live full, productive lives. “As a board member, my goal is to help the agency grow and function at the highest level possible, while serving as a model for best practices.” She believes it’s important to tour ILA’s residences so she can meet the staff and Individuals behind each program.

When she’s not working, or serving on the ILA Board, Simpson volunteers for New York Cares, a nonprofit dedicated to improving education, revitalizing public spaces and fulfilling community needs. Every August, she participates in a beautification project at a city school and helps to prepare classrooms for the new academic year.

Education is a cause close to Simpson’s heart. She’s the mother of two children who are currently pursuing degrees at the University of Pittsburgh and Indiana University. Guiding them along new and exciting paths is one of life’s highlights for Simpson. She never hesitates to discuss their futures to prepare them for success.

The same could be said about her work with ILA. “Impacting lives has always been one of my biggest goals. As a board member, it’s rewarding to know that our efforts have the capability of improving Individuals’ lives.”