Westchester Independent Living Center

Putnam Independent Living Services

May 2022

We are happy to send you our May newsletter today in the hopes that it helps you or someone you know learn more about mental health awareness. We’ve included many testimonials on how our services have supported clients in the past, and we hope to be able to assist all of you in some capacity in the future!

May is Mental Health Awareness Month


Betty Cruz-Roman, Certified NYSPS, is a fully certified Mental Health Peer Specialist on WILC’s Independent Living Team. Betty uses skilled, mutual peer support to guide and facilitate to share, listen, and give/receive support. Peers continually provide proof that when we share with and understand each other, we reduce, and prevent further harm that can be caused by various circumstances, particularly living through the present pandemic.     


Below is a testimony from one of our Mental Health Peer Specialist’s consumers; on how Peer Advocacy and mutual support has benefited her:    

"My name is Socorro Sanchez, and I am a 59-year-old woman with many mental and physical health issues, I met and began working with Betty Cruz-Roman since she was employed at WJCS and continued working with Betty when she began working at WILC for 10 years now.  I have much gratitude for working with such a calm and humble Peer, who serves as a role model to me.     


Betty has been instrumental in my life, especially when I am in Crisis mode.  She’s taught me to use laughter as good medicine and has helped me be assertive instead of aggressive and avoid many unnecessary confrontations. I’ve learned that with humility you can get more bees with honey, and I get a better outcome on life’s events.  She also was a great peer model at showing me not to take life so serious and instead look at situations where I can turn a negative into a positive. 


Betty explained the difference between a psychiatrist and a psychologist, and I am now seeing a psychologist. And avoiding any MH meds. I also have a history of chronic depression, panic disorder, PTSD and Bipolar and suicidal tendencies… I won’t go into my physical health as that would be too much.  


As my Peer Advocate, Betty is my go-to person during times of my mental health crisis especially through periods which include psychiatric admissions and suicidal attempts. Recently, I was discharged from both White Plains hospital and Westchester Medical Center’s Psychiatric ward on numerous occasions. I always let Betty in on the loop during hard times. Betty’s life experience has given her the ability to take me under her wings with her support and lived experience. She is my role model. 


Betty has also assisted me with other services such as housing, application and approval for disability, food, clothing and many other services. Recently I had a Mental health episode and was consequently admitted for psychiatric care for a period of two weeks as a result of being displaced by Ardsley municipal house and living in what was becoming construction. Because of eminent domain I was forced to move from Ardsley, where I lived for more than 20 years. Betty directed my Advocacy efforts and upon being released from the hospital I was offered an apartment in Elmsford (Nob Hill) and moved there on April 8th.   

Betty has shown me how to stay calm during life’s struggles she has also kept me from losing my mind, especially knowing that I can relate to her as a person. Finally, I am now moved with my two children and settling in while living life on life’s terms in a positive manner. Thank you to Betty and the persons who helped me get it together."


-      Socorro Sanchez

Putnam Independent Living Services Recognizes May as Mental Health Month

In light of this special designation this month, PILS is offering Benefits advice to its consumers through its Mobile Benefit Team. Do you need help with benefits? PILS will schedule a date in May to serve its consumers with benefits questions. 


PILS IL Team provides Guidance, support and practical advice on disability-related issues, resources and options that can assist you in making informed choices, information on accessible transportation as well as assistance and information on benefits such as Social Security Disability, Supplemental Security Income, Medicaid, Medicaid Buy-In, SNAP benefits and HEAP. We have a Mobile Benefits Team that meets with consumers to provide one on one benefits advice. 


Are you thinking of going back to work? Are you wondering how your SSI or SSDI benefits may be affected? Michael DiMattina, PILS Mental Health Advocate, is available to meet with you online or by phone to discuss your benefits questions. Michael can be reached at 845-228-7457 Ext. 1120 or by e-mail at mdimattina@putnamils.org. It would be a pleasure to continue to serve PILS consumers in any way we can. 


Below are two notes from grateful consumers about our assistance:


“My name is John F. I have been a client at Putnam Independent Living services for over a decade. I just want to thank everyone at PILS for always being there for me. I suffer from mental illness most of my life and have had to deal with Social Security, Medicaid, Food Stamps and Section 8. I would never have been able to do this on my own. I am very grateful for all the help I received From Michael DiMattina and his team. I appreciated the shared life experiences I received. I never expected the kind of help and support I received from all of them. Again, very grateful.


-      John F.


In approximately the year 2009, my friend introduced me to Meg Valenzuela of Westchester Independent Living Center. Meg has been my greatest life saver seeing I get all the possible and allotted benefits I need when it comes to my particular disability and unique situation. She has spent an incredible number of hours, days, months, and years assisting me in the handling of my difficult case as I dealt with a disability law firm in the administration of Social Security benefits. I truly do not know what I would have done without the excellent and very knowledgeable assistance from Evelyn Fernandez and Meg Valenzuela at WILC. Their services have literally made a difference in the care of my well-being while helping to keep my Social Security benefit payments from being erroneously stopped. They have worked with me now for a period of 13 years as I have endured an extended number of appearances with my disability lawyer in the work to defend my truth. The continued help, guidance and expressions of genuine care Meg has offered means the world to me for which I am very thankful and fortunate to have found. She has been there every time I needed her. She even helped me to get signed up with the Medicaid-Buy-In program which I did not know I was entitled to. Her outstanding service served to assure me the right source of support and benefits. I’m telling you I don’t know what I would have done if it wasn’t for WILC. I still depend on their expertise when questions arise, and resolutions need to be made. 

I am extremely grateful for the Westchester Independent Living Center’s support and attentiveness for the lives of the disabled. Their service is one that few can match. Thank you to WILC, Meg and Evelyn in all you have done regarding caring for my life in supporting me through times of crisis and seeing I get the right kind of help. I appreciate all the time you have given me to get assistance and you still do if necessary. It is because of you which helps ease my mind knowing you are there to call upon if I need to.”


-      Anonymous


Recovery International, founded by neuropsychiatrist Abraham A. Low in 1937, is a self-help mental health group that has structured meetings utilizing a cognitive behavioral approach. PILS IL Advocate Joe Guagliano, holds a Recovery International telephone meeting every Monday from 2PM to 4PM. There is no fee for this meeting. In addition to this weekly meeting, Recovery International presently has countless telephone and online meetings 7 days a week. Some of these telephone meetings are open to everyone, some require membership in Recovery. For more information go to the Recovery website: www.recoveryinternational.org or you may contact Joe at jguagliano@wilc.org for more information. 

WILC Sponsors 2022 National Wheelchair

Basketball Championship


Westchester Independent Living Center was very proud to sponsor the 2022 National Wheelchair Basketball Championship (NWBA) on April 2, 2022, in Wichita, Kansas, with the New York Rollin Knicks beating the Dallas Wheelchair Mavericks 59-53!


Heading into the National Tournament, the Rollin' KNICKS were seeded #2 in the country. The team roster included Steve Serio, Patrick Anderson, Christopher Bacon, Kevin Grant, Joe Gugliotta, and Ryan Martin.


This was the team’s 4th NWBA Championship. New York Rollin’ Knicks also won the Championship in 2014, 2018, and 2019. After not playing for the past two years due to COVID restrictions, this was a major season and Tournament for the NWBA. Congratulations to Steve Serio of the Rollin’ KNICKS for being named MVP.


For more information and/or to watch saved livestreams, visit the NWBA’s Facebook page

Updates from New York Association on Independent Living (NYAIL)

New York Association on Independent Living_1527603904.jpg

NYAIL's Director of Advocacy Meghan Parker has put together an overview of this year's state budget. The budget was passed later than usual and after the deadline, but the legislative session is still scheduled to end in June. Sign-up to receive NYAIL's Action Alerts for future advocacy updates.


NYAIL 2022 Budget Overview

Independent Living


Funding for the statewide network of ILCs has been increased by $1.6 million to $16 million. Though this is still short of the $18 million recommended by the NYS Board of Regents, it is the biggest one-time increase the ILCs have received in a long time.


Health / Medicaid


Home care worker wage increase: Fair Pay for Home Care was not included in the budget. However, the budget did include a more modest wage increase for home care workers. Here are the final details of what was included: 


  • As of 10/22, home care workers will receive $2 over the minimum wage.
  • As of 10/23, home care workers will receive an additional $1 over minimum wage.


There are concerns this wage increase will push some workers over the benefits cliff, making them ineligible for programs like Medicaid without providing a significant enough wage increase to lift them out of poverty. 


Overtime: For Consumer Directed Personal Assistance under managed care, providers will be able to bill for over time. This does not appear to include fee for service. However, the ability to bill for over time is huge.


Medicaid eligibility for aged, blind, and disabled: The income limit was increased to 138% of Federal Poverty Line (FPL). This brings the income eligibility up from 87% FPL to the levels applied to all other Medicaid applicants. The asset limit was not removed as advocates pushed for, but it will be increased by about 50% in January 2023. 


Medicaid Global Cap: The final budget keeps Governor Hochul’s original proposal to keep the cap with a new formula. Pending Federal approval, Medicaid Global Cap shall not exceed the annual growth rate projections within the National Health Expenditure Accounts produced by the office of the actuary in the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services for the preceding five years. While this is expected to be an improvement of the current formula, it is still an arbitrary cap that has kept Medicaid rates low, and services underfunded.


Kendra’s Law: Kendra’s Law was extended for 5 years. Under the law, there are a few circumstances under which a person can be ordered to undergo court-ordered treatment. The one newly added, and which is of most concern is for individuals who have an expired court order within the last 6 months and who is experiencing a significant increase of symptoms. If the director of community services who previously oversaw the court-ordered treatment determines such symptoms limit one or more major life activities, they can be referred for assisted outpatient treatment. The director of community services must coordinate an evaluation by a physician. If the physician determines it is necessary, they must have assessed the person within 10 days of the hearing and must testify in person or remotely to the need for such an order. It must be determined to be clinically necessary and the least restrictive option. To learn more about the history and background of Kendra's Law, watch our March webinar with Harvey Rosenthal, Chief Executive Officer of NYAPRS.


Consumer Directed Personal Assistance Program: Repeals the CDPA request for offers (RFO) and instead directs the Department of Health to enter into contracts with RFO applicants that meet the minimum requirements of the RFO and were serving 200 consumers in NYC or 50 consumers in upstate regions at any time between 1/1/20-3/31/20. This means all ILC FIs will be able to continue providing FI services.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Launches Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) to Reduce the Cost of Getting Online


Internet access is now necessary for work, school, healthcare, and more. However, for many households, it remains unaffordable. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) wants everyone to access reasonably priced internet services and recently launched the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) to reduce the cost of getting online.

The ACP provides a discount of up to:

  • $30 per month toward internet service for eligible households.
  • $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands.

Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 toward purchasing a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers. To qualify for this one-time discount, households must contribute more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase price.

Any household with an individual who receives Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is eligible to receive discounted internet service through the ACP. Social Security doesn’t count ACP assistance as income or a resource for SSI purposes. Receipt of this assistance will not affect a person’s SSI payment.

Please read the following blog article for additional information.

We encourage you to share this information with your clients, families, friends, members, colleagues, affiliates, and other interested parties.

Medicare Makes it Easier to Find & Compare Doctors


Are you looking for a new doctor and not sure where to start? Medicare.gov makes it quick and easy to find and compare doctors and other providers in your area.

Here's how:

  1. Visit Medicare.gov, enter your location and select "Doctors & clinicians" under Provider Type. You can also search by specialty, like general practice or internal medicine.
  2. Review details about the doctors you're interested in, like their contact information, practice locations, hospital affiliation, and performance information.
  3. You can also select the "compare" button to compare up to 3 different healthcare providers you're interested in.
Find & Compare Doctors

Once you're ready to schedule a visit with a new doctor, be sure to call ahead to verify general information, like office location, if they're accepting new patients with Medicare, and if you need a referral.

Financial Help to Cover the Cost and Installation of

 Cooling Systems

On Monday, May 9, 2022, New York Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that $15 million is available through the Home Energy Assistance Program to help low-income New York individuals and families who lack air conditioning stay cool during the upcoming summer months.

Gov. Hochul ordered the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, the agency administering HEAP, to expand the eligibility for the cooling component to more effectively assist those in need by including all income-eligible New Yorkers, officials say.


To find out more and see if you’re eligible to receive this benefit, please click here.

Putnam County Commissioner of Social Services Warned About Fraudulent Website 

The Office of Mental Health has been advised of a fraudulent, and potentially illegal, website that offers to direct internet users to mental health services in their community. While the website does list legitimate facilities and services, it uses a false toll-free telephone number that connects users to a center that collects financial and personal data as well as protected health information from callers. 


In at least one instance, the center advised a caller that there were no services available in their region and attempted to steer the caller to a service provider in Florida. OMH is pursuing this matter with law enforcement, and we ask that you advise your clients and others. For people seeking mental health services, OMH’s Mental Health Program Directory is a trustworthy source.

Did You Know?

Loss of smell is a common symptom of COVID affecting up to 70% of patients, regardless of disease severity. According to a study published in JAMA Neurology, direct viral injury is not the cause of most smell-related symptoms. Inflammation triggered by the infection causes damage to nerves, reducing their ability to send signals to the brain. The extent of the damage and which part of the nerve pathways are injured indicates the potential for recovery. The team plans to conduct further research.

Upcoming Webinars


Please join us for a Zoom Webinar presented by

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Westchester:

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. The rates of anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions are climbing for all our young people, including those with special education needs.

This compelling presentation will educate all about the warning signs of mental health conditions, about what steps to take if your child or a student is showing symptoms of a mental health condition and about how school districts and parents can work together to help students.

Facilitated by Task Force Board Members Julie Passman & Marion Walsh

DATE: Tuesday May 17, 2022 

TIME: 7:00pm – 8:00pm

Click HERE to register.

If you have difficulty registering, please email jbaumann@putnamils.org

Or call (845) 228-7457, ext. 1108

Sponsored by:

The Lower Hudson Valley Special Education Task Force

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Westchester Independent Living Center

10 County Center Road 2nd floor

White Plains, NY 10607

(914) 682-3926 (Voice)

(914) 259-8036 (VP)

(914) 682-8518 (FAX)


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Putnam Independent Living Services

1441 Route 22, Suite 204

(Tompkins Mahopac Bank building)

Brewster, New York 10509

(845) 228-7457 (Voice)

(914) 259-8036 (VP)

(845) 228-7460 (Fax)