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Advocates

Jacqueline Beilharz

Jacqueline graduated from college in 1974 and since that time she has provided support and leadership to children and adults with a variety of disabilities in multiple settings, including the residential services unit for children with multiple disabilities at the Maryland School for the Blind. While in Massachusetts, she was involved in the development and management of the state’s first community residential program for deaf adults with intellectual disabilities leaving institutional care. She worked with incarcerated individuals who were dually diagnosed with MH/ID, served as a service coordinator /supervisor, and conducted independent professional review of services provided to individuals who were placed in the community as a result of various consent decrees. After moving to Pennsylvania she began as an advocate with DRP in 1988. Since then she has conducted primary and secondary investigations; analyzed incident management systems information to identify and track patterns of abuse and neglect; served in a supervisory capacity for grant activities and a state contract; and for many years was responsible for writing DRP’s annual federal PPR for the developmental disabilities grant.

Larree Beilharz

Larree has been working with individuals with disabilities since 1979. He received his B.S. from Bloomsburg University and has been advocating for individuals with disabilities since 1988 with DRP regarding abuse, neglect, and right violations. He has assisted individuals with disability issues through individual advocacy by providing information, referrals, and case services. Among other things, he has conducted outreach, developed written materials, monitored facilities, researched governmental regulations, commented on policy and regulations, and has managed and worked with various committees. Periodic work on grants has included a Developmental Disability Council grant to compile recommendations on improving the state’s systems for transition-age youth, a Social Security grant to protect the rights of beneficiaries as they return to work, a Social Security grant to provide Work Incentive Planning and Assistance to beneficiaries, and a Social Security grant to review rep payee services provided to individuals.

Lan Do

Lan has been with the DRP since 2007 coordinating and managing training and technical assistance to disability advocacy groups across the commonwealth under the Disability Advocacy Support Hub (DASH). She has worked on collaborations and with coalitions and other groups helping to advocate for people with disabilities in areas such as transportation, person direction, and access to governmental services.

Kimberly Edman

Kim has worked for DRP since 2006. She began as an intake coordinator and quickly moved into an advocacy position. Prior to working for DRP, Kim received her Bachelor’s Degree at Millersville University and completed some graduate studies at Penn State University. She worked in human services for more than 14 years in both direct care and managing a residential home. Kim’s focus has been on advocating for individuals with disabilities to access services in the community.

Phyllis Hilley

Phyllis has served as Program Director for DRP’s Work Incentives Planning and Assistance program (WIPA) since 2007. She has a degree in organizational management and more than 20 years of experience in human services. Phyllis has one daughter and resides in Delaware County.

Darryl Holts

Darryl is a system advocate at DRP. His responsibilities include monitoring both state hospitals located in Western Pennsylvania, addressing systemic issues raised through community meetings, stakeholders, and intake, and addressing abuse and neglect in other state institutions. His greatest accomplishments is to experience the joy of people with disabilities stepping into their opportunities to engage life on their terms and become successful. Prior to joining DRP, Darryl worked with troubled teens, did extensive drug and alcohol counseling with families and individuals, conducted and supervised summer camps for children, and participated in a pilot program named Shelter Diversion, which addressed the needs of court-involved families through assessments needed to be made and approved through the juvenile justice system. Darryl graduated from Geneva College with a degree in Christian Education (Psychology). He is a native of Philadelphia and is married with three adult children and two grandchildren.

Desiree Krick

Desiree, an advocate for people with disabilities, ensures that people have the opportunity to speak up for themselves and determine the life they would like to live. Since 2015, she has been employed by DRP as a facility advocate at Hamburg Center. Desiree earned an A.A. in psychology from Reading Area Community College and is currently pursuing her B.S. in psychology at Kutztown University. Desiree’s work experience with people with intellectual and developmental disabilities includes: seven years of direct care, two years as a team leader, and one year as a residential supervisor for a community provider. Desiree attends ISP meetings for self-advocates to ensure the development of their ISP reflects their rights, choices, preferences, interests, and enhances their quality of life. Desiree has facilitated monthly self-advocacy meetings and self-advocacy activities at the Hamburg Center. During these meetings and throughout the year, she educates self-advocates on advocacy and rights. Desiree has been instrumental in the development of the Self-Advocate of the Month Program at Hamburg Center. She feels that it is very rewarding for self-advocates to be recognized and celebrated for their achievements. Desiree is currently involved in supporting people who live at Hamburg Center transition into homes in the community. She meets independently with team members including families and participates in transition meetings. She is helping those who are moving determine what supports they need and want in a community life. Desiree ensures that every person who is planning to move to the community is given an opportunity to provide input regarding his/her new home and to learn as much as possible about the residences that are being offered. Desiree also makes sure that the services that are being offered by providers are person centered and adequate to meet the person’s needs.

Stephen Lew

Stephen Lew is an Advocate at DRP and DRP’s Veterans Project Lead. Stephen has been an advocate for Veterans since his 2003 retirement from the U.S. Army after 27 years, having achieved the rank of Master Sergeant. Stephen has worked at the PA Department of Labor & Industry as a Veterans Employment Representative, U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Advocate, Lebanon VA Medical Center Vocational Rehabilitation Assistant, Executive Assistant to the Deputy Adjutant General of the PA Department of Military & Veterans Affairs, and Yellow Ribbon Coordinator. Stephen is currently in his second year at Harrisburg Area Community College for Culinary Arts. He has more than 30 years of experience in the Food & Beverage field.

Martine De Lorenzo

Martine is a Certified Work Incentive Coordinator. Martine started her career at DRP in 2005 with the Community Advocacy Project, providing advocacy to individuals with intellectual disabilities in the Southeast Region of PA.  She later joined the WIPA team, originally to provide much needed administrative assistance and eventually completing the rigorous training necessary for obtaining a certification as a CWIC. Previously, Martine worked at Vision For Equality as an advocate where she also volunteered for the IM4Q in Philadelphia. She was also a member of the Developmental Disabilities Council in PA and held an appointment on the Planning and  Advisory Committee to the Deputy Secretary of (currently) ODP. This advocacy career chose Martine; she has six children, two of whom were born with disabilities, all of whom make her proud.

Ronece Martinez

Ronece has worked for DRP since 2003. She began her work as an intake advocate and has led the intake team and intake process since 2008. Before joining DRP, she worked in the human services field for 10 years as direct care staff and a residential home supervisor. Ronece provided training for central Pennsylvania staff in conjunction with Riverside Associates for several years. Topics included rights of people with disabilities and community inclusion. In her role at DRP, Ronece has supported thousands of clients with technical and short-term assistance. She works on protective services issues, provides resources for those in need, and helps people understand their rights.

Karen Pasqualicchio

Karen graduated summa cum laude from the University of Scranton with a degree in Counseling and Human Services.  She has been a community developmental disabilities advocate since 2005. She is dedicated to protecting and advancing the rights of people with developmental disabilities. She has worked in the human service system since 1979 as a direct care staff, case manager, supervisor of day activities, director of residential services, and as an advocate.  DRP advocates support individuals with developmental disabilities’ right to be heard and to be healthy and safe while enjoying full community inclusion.

Ryan Rader

Ryan is a Representative Payee Investigator at the Harrisburg office of Disability Rights Pennsylvania. He graduated from DeSales University in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. He has spent the last 5 years helping adults in the mental health community overcoming barriers and achieving independence. He lives in Carlisle with his wife Ashley and daughter Adele.

Robin Rasco

Robin works in DRP’s Philadelphia office.  Until December 2018, Robin was an Administrative Assistant who, in addition to overseeing everything administrative in DRP’s Philadelphia office, assisted attorneys with their legal work, provided administrative assistance under DRP’s Help America Vote Act grant and Representative Payee grant, and fulfilled the role of Board Liaison for DRP’s Board of Directors.  Effective January 1, 2019, Robin now works full time under the Representative Payee grant and will continue to provide administrative assistance under the Help America Vote Act grant.

Norma Realpe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coleen Sassaman

Coleen is the Facility Advocacy Team Leader as well as the advocate assigned to Selinsgrove Center. She has approximately 30 years of experience supporting people with intellectual disabilities. Coleen has worked as a facility advocate since March of 1999 and prior to that, was employed for more than 10 years in numerous professional and managerial capacities with a community provider agency. In her tenure at Selinsgrove Center, Coleen has been instrumental in expanding the leadership and self-advocacy groups and has focused much attention on rights training and activities at all the centers.  Moreover, Coleen has helped transition many men and women from state centers to homes in the community.  Coleen holds several degrees including a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Thomas A. Edison State College and a Master of Business Administration from California Coast University.

Jean Searle

Jean has been with Disability Rights Pennsylvania and its predecessors since 1994 following her discharge from an institution. Jean started in the Philadelphia office where she was a receptionist and provided administrative support to staff. In 2014, Jean became an advocate focusing on policy matters impacting people with disabilities. Jean often visits with legislators and members of their staffs to raise awareness of disability rights issues. Ms. Searle is also a self-advocate. Jean moved to Harrisburg and now works in DRP’s Harrisburg office.

Chanel Smith

Chanel is a graduate of Morgan State University. She has been an advocate with DRP since 2012. She provides direct advocacy to individuals with disabilities to ensure their rights are protected and they are free from abuse and neglect in their in the community and residential facilities. She educates families about the behavioral health resources that are available to their children in the least restrictive setting. She also works with individuals in out-of-home placements to ensure that they receive appropriate behavioral health treatments. She collaborates with residential providers to decrease lengths of stays in out-of-home placements and to coordinate appropriate discharge planning resources.

Sol Belén Vázquez-Otero

Sol Belén has spent more than 45 years as a social justice activist, first as a student at Cornell University and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, and then as a community activist. Sol served as Mental Health Team Leader at DRP and continues to work to protect and advocate for the rights of individuals with disabilities. Her passion for helping individuals with mental health issues, especially those who are Spanish dominant, has led her to pursue a Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling at Lock Haven University of PA.

Dale Verchick

Dale is an advocate in the Harrisburg office of Disability Rights Pennsylvania. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a Bachelor’s degree in Education through the University of Mumbai, India. She is also an accredited elementary teacher through the American Montessori Society. After many years of teaching, Dale joined DRP in 2008. Dale has advocated for the rights of people with disabilities in various matters, including assisting inmates in accessing disability services; addressing barriers to employment for beneficiaries of Social Security; and guiding clients on how to best achieve results by using self-advocacy methods.

Tyra Virden

Tyra came to DRP after teaching in Philadelphia School District for several years. She became certified as a Community Work Incentive Coordinator and began working with the Work Incentive Planning and Assistance Program in 2009. She received her degree in elementary/early childhood and special education from Temple University.

Renee Wagner

Renee has been a facility advocate with Disability Rights Pennsylvania since 2008. She is currently stationed at Polk Center. Renee earned a B.A. in Psychology and Christian Thought from Grove City College. Her experience working with people diagnosed with intellectual disabilities includes six years providing direct care support and seven years as the Director of Residential Services with a community provider agency.  Renee has been instrumental in the reorganization of the Resident Advisory Committee at Polk Center. As a result of the changes implemented, the committee is now consumer directed and has become more informative yet still enjoyable. The people living at Polk Center are now learning how to speak for themselves and while also using their life experiences to teach their peers.