Stars Of Support

More than 100 people turned out at the Athenaeum Hotel at Chautauqua Institution for The Resource Center at Chautauqua Symposium, which began Tuesday.

The event features speakers with national and global perspectives on current, critical issues facing individuals with disabilities and their families. The first day of the symposium offered an opportunity for speakers to lecture on their topics while today’s events, to be held at key settings of The Resource Center, will allow for more informal dialog with the speakers.

The event began at 8 a.m. and featured five speakers, as well as a panel discussion during the lunch break. Each year, a highlight of the symposium is the opportunity to hear from individuals who experience different disabling conditions. This year, Elizabeth Sturdevant, Amanda Bollinger and Christopher Cobready shared their stories during the lunch panel.

The first speaker of the day, Jim Wilson, has been an advocate and activist for the majority of his life, and participated in the early days of the civil rights movement. He began his career as a direct support professional and later served as the executive director of The Arc of Schuyler County, a family-based organization that provides support to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Following Wilson, Martin Gerry, executive director of NISH’s Institute for Economic Development took to the podium. Gerry focused on what it means for the future with New York attempting to become an “Employment First State,” and whether there are new supports in place to ensure progress toward meaningful employment and careers for those with disabilities.

Beth Ann Vandenberg, a clinical nurse specialist in the Buffalo area, spoke about what can be learned from the experience of supporting individuals with significant behavioral conditions and how the experience interfaces with existing community resources and system supports.

After the lunch panel, the speakers resumed, with Ann Monroe coming to the podium to speak to the participants about health care reform. Monroe, who is president of the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York, has more than 30 years of experience in health and human services. Her lecture put a spotlight on the major areas of progress that will be achieved with health care reform in New York state, as well as the emerging challenges and the continued movement toward managed-care systems.

“We always say that we’re looking for collaboration, and I’m not going to say that collaboration isn’t important,” said Monroe at the conclusion of her presentation. “What we’re really striving for, though, is connection. I think that is going to have to be the glue that gets us all across this chasm to where we need to be. When you start to measure your work on a common standard, you’ll find that some organizations are much better at certain things than others, and the things that you’re good at they made need help with.”

Rounding out the afternoon was Adele Gorges, New York Care Coordination Program executive director. The final presentation of the day looked at what organizations can learn from the progress made to date in behavioral health homes in order to move forward into the impending managed-care environment.

For more information about the symposium, visit or contact Vicky Bardo at 661-1477.